It’s tough to imagine how different spins might look today had Lucinda Ruh not been around to pioneer a number of innovative positions that the world had not seen before. And it goes beyond what she developed, it was the legacy of her innovation that led to other new spins being invented after she retired.
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Related: Part 1: Painter on ice
Ruh’s memoir, Frozen Teardrop, revolves (pun intended) around her art of spinning, something she called her “beautiful addiction.” Our interview continues with a more in-depth look at Ruh’s relationship with figure skating and the highs and lows that came with her love of spinning.
Jackie Wong: And you called your relationship with figure skating a “love-hate relationship,” and you talked quite a bit about how skating changed your life, and spinning changed your life in many different ways. And I’m not going to go into all the different things that happened as a result of your incredible gift of spinning. You are no doubt the greatest spinner ever, but I think it was always a bit of a mixed blessing. Am I right about that?
Lucinda Ruh: Yeah, definitely. The spins – I loved to spin when I was young, and I had said my dad had said to choose something and make it my own, and have me be the only person to do it. I had the spins and I wanted that to be my trademark, but it caused me so much pain in the sense of … first of all, I was feeling so terrible physically. Not only mentally, but I was having so many physical symptoms.
And it was coming from the spins, from the concussions – I was having ongoing concussions and I didn’t know that at the time. So there was that physical aspect of still not feeling well and mentally, I just felt like my spins had been so sacred to me. I went into a different world, it was like a meditation for me when I was spinning.
Like I always said, I never saw myself as an athlete, I always saw myself as an artist and I was always painting a different pictures as I was spinning and I was going into this different world. So many times I just feel like I lost my body. And then to not be able to show my spins because I was so injured – I would be in one World Championships and I would disappear for a couple of years and then I would come once again and then I disappeared.
Because I was always so injured, so not being able to do them on a constant, year after year, that really hurt. And then when I turned professional, I felt like I was selling my spins. I was just repeatedly doing them night after night after night, and I was just losing more and more of myself and the creativity.
I don’t know, there was a sacredness I had for these spins. It might sound completely weird, but the spins were such a beautiful part of me that I just felt that as I turned professional I just lost. So it was like a beautiful addiction – that was kind of how I phrased it. Because spinning gave me such a beautiful feeling as I was spinning, but afterwards, it was a terrible feeling.
Also, I was using the spins to escape a lot of the pain when I was little from a lot of the emotional and the physical abuse that I was getting. I was using that as my sacred spot that only I could get into. And then as I got so sick and I couldn’t even spin, I just lost everything.
JW: You talk about the concussions you got as a result of your spinning. Have you encountered that with anybody else in the world?
LR: I know that Scott Davis, who was a very fast … he did very fast sit spins and scratch spins … I know that he had vertigo problems. When I talked to him, he said he wasn’t sure if it came from spinning. It’s very hard to prove as well where it came from. You never know if it did trigger it because he did spin very fast.
I know that a couple of the other skaters like Stephane Lambiel, and this other skater who is not that famous but actually was spinning very well and for a long time, were also having dizziness problems, vertigo, ear problems, kind of feeling nauseous all the time.
So I think it happens more than you would think, but you also don’t relate it so much to the spins. Now when I teach my kids, I really am careful with the spins, I really try not to do too many and really listen to what they are feeling before I push them too much. In a way, it’s ignorance – we don’t know about it. And I was spinning three or four hours a day, constantly.
JW: And when the doctor finally diagnosed it, you did stop spinning and your symptoms did go away, so have you spun since?
LR: No, I did stop spinning right away and a lot of the symptoms, I wouldn’t say, went away 100%. But I think it’s going to take a longer time, if you can imagine doing 20 years of almost everyday … those mini-concussions … I had bigger concussions when I really fell on my head. I remember those when I was knocked out.
JW: Oh, I know those well.
LR: But from the spins, I remember hearing my head crack while I was spinning. I remember sometimes doing a layback, I would faint right out of it. I think the repercussions of them will take a little longer. I don’t think they are 100% gone, they are definitely better. When I teach, I maybe show them a little bit … a slow one, but I refuse to do my spins, which, in a way, it’s really sad for me because I felt like it was the one thing that I loved to do and now I can’t do it.
JW: Well, you’ll always have that world record.
LR: Yeah. What I did, I couldn’t have done more. I’m finally proud, humbly … I’m not arrogantly proud but I’m finally humbly proud of what I’ve done. That’s the one thing that I do regret is that I never really enjoyed it enough while I was doing it. I was always looking to be better and more perfect and faster. Finally, I’m able to look back and say, “I did ok.”
NEXT: Part 3: Unfortunate circumstances
Two-time World professional bronze medalist Lucinda Ruh’s book, Frozen Teardrop, comes out on November 1st.
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