Ice Network

Luchianov: No one touched hearts like Lipnitskaia

From Spielberg to casual observers, skater's programs appealed to all
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By portraying the girl in the red coat from 'Schindler's List,' Julia Lipnitskaia was able to connect with audiences all over the world. -Getty Images

Icenetwork will announce its choice for 2013-14 Person of the Year on May 15. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an icenetwork contributor.

Despite the fact that I had already decided for myself a long time ago who exactly was my icenetwork Person of the Year, writing an essay about Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia is not an easy task. Why is that? Because she, the youngest Olympic and European champion, does not fit the common stereotype of a figure skater.

I would also note that if I had to choose a person of the year in the world in general, taking into consideration well-known politicians, actors, businessmen and so on, even then Lipnitskaia would have taken the honor.

We are used to dividing skaters into two groups: those who cope better with the technical side of programs, and those who prefer the artistic part. No matter how I tried, I could not attach Lipnitskaia to one of these two groups. Actually, it is impossible to stick any label to her.

Many may object to this, as several experts and critics do, because Lipnitskaia certainly better manages the technical part. If so, then I would say that you were right exactly one year ago. Yes, at those times, she was primarily notable by her impeccable technical skills.

But all has cardinally changed in the Olympic season. There is no doubt that this skater executed all of the most difficult elements of modern ladies figure skating; this year, however, her technique was not the most important thing. Her Schindler's List program deeply impressed not only those who identify themselves as representatives of the skating community but also hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who stared in mute amazement at Lipnitskaia's performances at the Sochi Olympics.

I have received many admiring emails about this 15-year-old from people all over the world -- from Australia to South America -- including those who are not even familiar with figure skating.

For those who speak about Lipnitskaia's lack of artistry, I highly recommend they discuss this theme with the director of Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg. He was so impressed by what he saw that he wrote the following letter:

Dear Yulia,

I am writing to tell you how moved I was by your gold medal performance as the little girl in red and accompanied by John Williams' music from my film SCHINDLER'S LIST. You brought such dignity in your remembrance of the Holocaust through your soulfully inspired routine. I have three sons and four daughters, and there was not a dry eye in our house in California as we watched you on television.

You are the best discovery of the Sochi Olympics and we will be watching you in PyeongChang in 2018. Hopefully someday my family will have the chance to meet you and your family. We would love that very much.

In good health,

Steven Spielberg

Note the words, "there was not a dry eye in our house." I want to say that there was not a dry eye in my house, too, as well as in many other houses around the globe. Thus, such an emotional letter from the author of many masterpieces of world cinema is probably the most powerful argument in favor of the completeness and sincerity of the artistic expression in Lipnitskaia's program.

The reaction of other legendary athletes was of a similar nature.

"This is a breakthrough, the same as at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where 15-year-old American Tara Lipinski won the gold medal," said Alexei Yagudin, whose own performances also brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience.

"People are saying you only like her because she's also 15 years old," said Tara Lipinski, who worked in Sochi as an NBC analyst and commentator. "But no, she has a good shot to win a gold medal. ... She has something special, a star quality," she noted.

"What a flawless and beautiful performance by Yulia Lipnitskaya, only 15 years old! That spin at the end..." top tennis player Maria Sharapova tweeted during the Olympics.

When someone stirs up such emotions, it is not just a great achievement -- it is a large contribution to the souls of people all over the world. This is an extraordinary event in the world of figure skating because Lipnitskaia also touched the souls of many people who are not only uninvolved in figure skating but in sports in general. This just didn't happen in our sport for many years.

Of course, her Olympic and European gold, as well as her silver at worlds, are very important. But much more important is the fact that Lipnitskaia, by her programs, has awakened something genuine, sincere and pervasive in a variety of people. In today's full-of-pain society, such moments are more important than ever.

We should also not forget the importance of the theme raised by Lipnitskaia in her free program. In a world where, unfortunately, once again there appear very dangerous "germs" in some countries, a constant reminder of the importance of the Holocaust can not be overemphasized. This is something that should be remembered by every person on the planet, and forgetting about this subject would be an extremely dangerous thing.

This year, Lipnitskaia revealed her personality by the fact that she decided to skate only to the music that she really likes. This explains the choice of not only her free skate but her short, too. "You Don't Give Up on Love" by Mark Minkov was an unknown melody to the international audience. Despite the obvious risks of taking a "not-so-promoted" piece, Lipnitskaia chose it, and the correctness of this choice was confirmed by her performances.

There is another reason this young skater deserves your respect: her independence. Lipnitskaia is a self-made person. Nothing has been handed to her; everything she has, she has had to earn.

She has never had influential patrons among the elite of her national federation. She didn't have special conditions during her preparation for the Olympics, unlike some other members of the Russian team. She didn't have a "special squad" of specialists from sports research institutions, and she didn't have vast financial resources for her training. It is very possible that Lipnitskaia is so sincerely loved by a huge number of everyday people, both in Russia and the rest of the world, for just those reasons.

After the Olympics, many have tried to join her fame, including various Russian pop stars and their "companies." But celebrity is completely alien to this Ekaterinburg native. She still prefers peace and quiet, which are so necessary after the many hours of hard work she puts in.

I have no doubt that Lipnitskaia's performances this season will be remembered for a long time and that they will be included on many people's lists of their all-time favorite programs. I am also sure that even after several years, the piercing look she gives in her Schindler's List program will continue to dig into the depths of our souls, still causing the tears that not only purify but also awaken our hearts.