A memory of elegance

I’ve written about beauty in sport before (here and here and here) and now that the Winter Olympics are upon us, I thought I’d do so again.

At Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, much of the coverage of the figure skating competition, and of the Games in general, focused on Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding and their wacky drama.  Twenty-four years later, my memories of the competition crystallize around the performances of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov in the pairs competition.

sergei5_LI2018-02-15 (1)_LI

Paired as skating partners while children at the Red Army Sports Club in Moscow, during the Soviet era, Gordeeva and Grinkov–“G and G”, as they came to be known–won the gold medal at the Calgary games in 1988, the youngest pairs team ever to do so.  They turned pro in 1990, married in 1991, and had a daughter in 1992.  When a new International Skating Union rule made it possible for professionals to regain their Olympic eligibility, they decided to return to amateur competition for the 1993–94 season and skate in the Olympics a second time, hoping to repeat as pairs champions.

Gordeeva and Grinkov (6)

I’m eternally in awe of people who can move their bodies through space, let alone on ice, with such ease and grace.  Their free skate (performed exactly 24 years ago today) is, to me, one of the most beautiful I can ever remember seeing: fluid, elegant and precise.  THEY are beautiful (and their elegant black and white outfits such an improvement over the Lycra/Spandex/sequin-bedazzled garb one usually sees on the ice). But they can show you far better than I can tell you.

Their love for each other is evident; great love stories, too, are a beautiful thing. And this one came to such a heartbreaking end. Grinkov died of a heart attack while training at Lake Placid in November of 1995; he was just 28.

Miscellany: there are a handful of videos of this performance available on YouTube.  The one I would have preferred to embed here, from CBS TV’s coverage (the camera angles are better and I like Scott Hamilton’s commentary), was not available for use: the IOC prohibits it!  (You can watch it on YouTube here.)  That version–and the one above–note that the couple performed to Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata.  Fussbudget–and Beethoven fan–that I am, I feel compelled to point out that while that’s true for much of their skate, the music heard for the first two minutes is actually from the first movement of his Pathétique sonata.



    • I can still remember hearing about Grinkov’s death (on the radio while driving) and it was such a shock; he had youth, beauty, talent, a young family…heartbreaking. Strange to think that, were he still alive, he’d be just five years younger than I. Now he’s eternally young. I haven’t seen “I, Tonya” yet. I got my fill of the saga back when it happened. (I was living in Boston at the time, and since Nancy Kerrigan was a local, we were saturated in coverage). It always bears repeating: thanks so much for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  • As you probably know, Ekaterina and Sergei settled in Simsbury – to train at the rink there with their coach and raise their young daughter – after the ’94 Olympics. I saw Sergei for a minor Ortho issue in my Avon office in the late summer of 1995. Ekaterina accompanied him to the visit. She was slight, reserved with a refined prettiness. I don’t remember her speaking. Sergei was much taller than I had anticipated. Chiseled muscles bulged out of his t-shirt and shorts. He wore brown flip-flops. He was cocky, self-contained, powerful and graceful. I was stunned by his Greek-God like presence. He looked like the rules of life: gravity, disease, etc., would not apply to him. A couple of months later he died a few hours drive away on a rink in Lake Placid.


  • Thank you, Jeanne. I’ve been watching the Olympics and working on Python programming assignments, and enjoying the commentary of Scott Hamilton and Tabith White (?), on NBC cable. I am in awe of what skaters can do on ice, wearing skates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vince, I’m jealous…I don’t have the NBC sports channel in my cable bundle, so am missing out on Scott H and Tanith W’s commentary.


  • Love this! Thank you! Not trying to be nit-picky, but their costumes at the ’94 Olympics were navy blue. Her sleeves are sheer, and there’s a small sheer ruffle at the bottom of the “skirt.” Quite pretty in color.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Not nit-picky at all, Shanda: I stand corrected, and I’m delighted you happened upon the post and enjoyed it. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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