Among the numerous competitions at the Olympics this year, the numerous success stories, failures, tragedies, high points, and low points, one event caught my eye more than any other. If one can consider one event to sum up the entire Olympic experience, to be the focal point of the games, at least for us here in the U.S., it is the Women’s Figure Skating Competition.
On the men’s side, I witnessed some amazing skating, but that event, while focusing on fancy footwork, has become a jumping contest. Who can jump higher, spin faster, and spin more. On the women’s side there’s some of that, too, as Mao Asada became the first female to land a triple axel (three of them) in competition. Still, there’s less of that than there is on the men’s side, and while her accomplishment is a tremendous one and contributed to a great night of skating, it was eclipsed by a more powerful and visual one: that of an artist of the ice.
We artists can recognize each other from those people who are merely good at what they do, for we bring beauty to the world. That is our only goal. We do it by showing what the world is and can be, the possibilities and the proof.
Art need not be utilitarian, or pragmatic. Real art has no reason for being. As Lev Lunts, the Russian author, proclaimed, “It exists because it must exist.”
Kim Yu-Na, or Queen Na, won the women’s competition because she is an artist of the ice. Everything she did during those two nights of competition looked effortless and graceful. Her emotional range reminded me of Oksana Baiul’s, except that she is a better skater than the Ukrainian wonder, and she connected with me on a much deeper emotional level. Her jumps were effortless, her spins beautiful, her footwork carefree, her artistry stellar.
Showing off one’s artistry on the ice, of course, is easier to do when skating without judges, and without a set number of essential elements dictating which jumps, twirls, and footwork must be included in the program. Her artistry, therefore, was best displayed last night, in the Champions Gala, when she skated for herself, for her fans, and for those who love the sport of figure skating, and its ice princesses.