Baiul won the 1993 World Figure Skating Championship in her first senior competitive season at the age of 15. She then won the gold medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics, defeating Nancy Kerrigan. Baiul nearly missed competing in the free skate altogether, having been injured after a collision with Tanja Szewczenko of Germany during a warm-up session following the ladies short program. She received two Olympic-approved pain-killing injections of anesthetics in her lower back and shoulder, which enabled her to perform and complete her free skate.
Baiul turned professional after the 1994 Winter Olympics, even though she was only 16 years old at the time and had competed in only four major international events. (She finished second at the European Championships in 1993 and 1994.)