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Spinmeister 'Target Stars on Ice' has bigger names, but no one spins faster than Lucinda Ruh

Source: Albany Times Union
Date: April 4, 2002
Author: Amy E. Tucker

Copyright 2002 The Hearst Corporation

Swiss skating sensation Lucinda Ruh is spinning her own kind of magic -- literally -- in her first year with the "Target Stars on Ice" tour, which hits the Pepsi Arena on Friday.

In addition to Ruh, the show features the talents of Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Katarina Witt and Kurt Browning, among others.

Ruh has been clocked in practice spinning 270 revolutions per minute -- an astounding 4.5 revolutions per second. She's currently training to earn two Guinness records. The prize for most revolutions on one foot has been held since 1997 by Britain's Neil Wilson. But her primary goal is to be the fastest spinner.

"No one holds a record for the fastest spin, so I could do that now," she said. "Then I want to beat Neil's record. He did 60 revolutions on one foot and I'm consistently hitting about 80 in practice."

Ruh creates all the unique positions in her spins, and though she's worked with some of the best coaches in the world -- including Olympic vets Christy Ness, Nabuo Sato and Hongyun Liu -- she credits her parents for her motivation.

Born in Switzerland, Ruh has lived all over the world, spending time in Paris, Tokyo and San Francisco; her most recent home is in New York City. But she describes her real home as being where her parents are -- and wherever there's an ice rink.

"My dad came back from a trip to Switzerland and told me I had to keep up the tradition and learn the Biellmann spin. We would joke that spinning 'must be in the Swiss water,' " she laughed.

The Biellmann spin, named for the Swiss spinner Denise Biellmann, is a one-footed spin in which the skater catches the raised leg and lifts it up over her head.

"My mom would be there every day and say, 'Come on, you have to spin one turn faster and faster every day.' Their motivation kept me going." Her parents currently live in the United Arab Emirates, near Saudi Arabia.

In August, Ruh relocated to lower Manhattan -- just a block from the World Trade Center. "I was evacuated for about a month," Ruh said. "Seeing it with your own eyes, rather than just on TV, is a totally different experience."

Ruh's family moved to Japan when she was 4; at the time she was doing more ballet than skating. Her efforts earned her a scholarship to the Royal Ballet of London, but after a three-month summer program, she opted for the competition skating offered.

"I love competition: the gliding, and being out there on the ice and having the whole audience watching me," she said.

This year's showgirls-themed "Stars on Ice" program offers Ruh plenty of attention-grabbing opportunities. She kicks off both acts in the role of the ultimate, untouchable showgirl -- a role choreographer Sandra Bezic designed to showcase Ruh's spinning talents.

"I'm not doing any jumps," Ruh said. "The other skaters do them so well, so I'm showcasing my strengths. In practice, I'm working a lot with Kurt (Browning) to keep up my jumps and improve them for upcoming shows and professional competitions."

Ruh's decision to leave the amateur ranks in 1999 led her to a third-place finish at the 2000 World Professional Championships. It proved to be a good career move for the skater.

"That first championship really opened my eyes, and gave me the satisfaction that what I've been working on for so many years is really appreciated," she said.

Ruh is hoping the tour will help make her a household name in America. Her friends call her "Luspinda" or "LuRuh" -- a play on both her names and "LuLu," the nickname of Chinese skater Lu Chen.

"Just don't call me Lucy," she said. "I hate that."

You might not remember her name, but you'll have a hard time forgetting those spins.