The lonely toreador and Katyusha

She is very serious; he is witty and fun-loving. She looks concerned going through the pages of her study notes which she will take to school tomorrow. He seats comfortably in a chair as if saying I deserve some rest. His skates are still covered with ice crumbs after a recent practice; and he still feels very excited.
"Are you tired?" - she asks.
"Absolutely! Twice as usual," - he chuckles. "You are not there with me. I have no one to lean on, nobody to support me. And I wonder how singles skaters manage to skate?"

... As a matter of fact, these days Sergei is restricted to practicing alone; his partner Ekaterina Gordeeva is resting. Out of necessity, though. She was injured during the "Moscow News" competition and now she stays away from the rink at the Novogorsk training center. She spends her time in the hotel room knitting and worrying. A fluffy sweater soon will be ready, but her physical shape is another matter... It has been a while since her last practice session! Walking up the stairs, she looks at the huge windows of the adjacent building. The ice rink is there, Sergei and coach Stanislav Leonovich are there too. Her partner is practicing a death spiral to Bizet’s "Toreador"… by himself.

There is not much time left before the Yerevan competition, where some of the Olympians will be selected. I worry together with Katia.
"How will you be able to get ready for that competition?"
"Most likely, we won’t go there. Our goal is the Europeans in January," – she looks at her partner. "In that case we will have enough time to polish our Olympic program."
"Katia gets back to training tomorrow," - continues Sergei. "Finally, everything is going to be as it should be. I won’t be a lonely toreador on the ice anymore."
I asked two-time World Champions what do they need to work on to finish their Olympic program. They were very critical of their work:
"Everything needs to be worked on! This is the Olympics! We want to show off our skill on the Calgary ice. We don’t want anyone to say that our competitors lost, instead of Gordeeva and Grinkov won..."
"So your goal is victory, the Olympic "gold"?"
"Show me an athlete who does not dream about becoming an Olympic champion? But to reach that goal it is necessary to..." - Sergei inquisitively looks at Katia...
And as a good student, she starts counting all the things that need to be done. First of all, the long program needs triple jumps. At the "Moscow News" competition they did not complete their triples. The Olympic program is going to be even more complex. They want to surprise spectators with a new exhibitions program "Katyusha".
"There is one more thing... Serezha needs to be more attentive," - smiles Katia. "Remember how you forgot your costume for the exhibitions in Leningrad?"
"But I still had time to get it!" - he justifies himself.

"Do you think," - I try to switch to a more serious topic - "figure skating, in which you invest so much effort and love, is going through tough times right now? The evidence to that is lack of spectator interest which could be seen at the recent Moscow competition."
They thought for a little while, I felt they are not ready to write an epitaph to their sport.
"It is sad to admit, but we felt spectator indifference only here at home, in Moscow," - at last Katia responded...
Then she remembered sold-out arenas of European and World Championships. And before the Worlds, Soviet skaters went to a small university town for acclimatization in the USA. Athletes lived in cottages, and trained at the student sports center. It was amazing at the rink in the morning! It seemed like the university had closed and everybody came to watch Soviet skaters, even their compulsory figures. There were flowers, applauses, lines to enter the rink... And it was like this every day.

"I think, you can talk about the decline of figure skating if the sport itself stopped in its development," - reflects Katia. - "but to say that is unfair, in any case for now... Anyway, let’s wait till the Olympics, the most important sports event of the last four years. If Calgary arena will be empty (and I cannot imagine that!) if the performance of Soviet athletes on Olympic ice will fade in comparison to other figure skaters, then, really, "decline" symptoms are serious."
"Well, you probably should not be worried; you are the leaders and two-time World Champions."
"Everybody tells us that Olympic Games are a special kind of competition. It is something different like nothing else," - responds Sergei. "Katia and I try to stay calm and joke about it, but we feel different… Excited. And then there are the empty arenas in Luzhniki at the competition - as if nobody cares for figure skating... Or maybe, we are just bad figure skaters?"

...They became silent, as if listening to the water drops of melting icicles outside; an unusual sound for winter. Tomorrow Katia will put away her knitting and disappear at the rink, practicing her lifts and jumps with Sergei, to be able to compete for the ultimate prize in Calgary, the Olympic Champions title. They will compete to be able to answer a question what kind of times the figure skating is going through...

By Elena Zubova. © Moskovskiy Komsomolets, 1987.
Translated by ©
Special thanks to Yulia for this article.