Work for two

Sergei, Katia and A. FadeevHaving won all the gold of amateur figure skating, they turn pro.
News about our best pair skaters, Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, leaving amateurs and turning pro have surprised and afflicted many people. However, the definition of professional sport is vague: it is hard to tell what the difference between amateurs and professionals is.

Now, Gordeeva and Grinkov work with Tatiana Tarasova’s theater "All stars", but do not participate in performances yet. They say that they train for the Professional Championships. Their competitors are the same: Valova and Vasiliev, Selezneva and Makarov...

So what has changed? In order to answer that question and to tell a bit more about Katia and Serezha, I’ve spent more than a month.

Katia is impossible to get hold of at home or at the "Krystal" rink after a practice, she is very busy. It is always something: exhibitions in Italy, studies at the Institute of Physical Culture... I had to wait for her for a while in her apartment on Kalininsky Prospekt where a huge black Great Dane Veld was watching my every move and Katia’s grandmother complained that Katyusha grew up and became independent too fast (Katia became a champion at 15).

At last our conversation took place. In real life, Katia is just as she is on the ice: little, graceful and very charming.
Why did you decide to turn pro? Have you won everything you could?
Indeed, it is one of the reasons. We already had the most important victory of our lives — Olympic Games. And then, we would like to make some money for ourselves. After all, there is a huge difference in how much our amateurs and professionals make. For example, for gold at Worlds Pro Championships we can get forty thousand dollars. Some of that goes to the government, some more to the theater (in this case we know, where our money goes). However, in amateur sports, USSR Goskomsport receives 75% of our money. We don’t know where it goes or what it is used for. Though, in the West, amateurs and professionals receive equal amounts.

What is the difference between amateur and professional championships?
The main difference is the judging system. We will have to show three programs: technical, artistic and free. Each program is judged according to 10-mark system. There is no time limit and no required elements. It gives us enormous opportunity for creativity.

Your decision was unexpected. You, after all, are the youngest pair.
The thing is that for the last two years we experienced a creative stagnation. We were skating on the old "wave," exploiting the old and proved system. We decided awhile ago that we needed some changes. And when, after the Goodwill Games, Tatiana Anatolievna invited us to her theater, we did it with pleasure.
And as to us being young... Well, why not leave at the peak of glory? We didn’t have time to bore the public. And we still want to have interesting work and to earn — now.

Katia, what do you think is going on with figure skating right now? Empty arenas, squabbles...
That was one of the reasons behind our leaving. Before any big competition, we skate in exhibitions for the Goskomsport heads and for the public. Last time it was terrible. I was skating and crying. There were empty seats and indifferent spectators... And it has nothing to do with the absence of advertising. Something else has happened. Before, figure skating was a celebration. And now nobody cares.

Maybe it is because of the scandals around the sport? Remember what Selezneva and Makarov said about "selling out pairs".
It is no secret, that for a long time Soviet pairs and dancers are the best in the world. And somehow to compensate our singles skaters, not to let them down, our pairs are "sold" getting lower marks then they deserve. It is difficult to catch because figure skating judging is very subjective. As for Selezneva and Makarov... Perhaps, at some point in time they were better than us, but all our victories are fair. We were stronger.

You said that you give 75% of your money to Goskomsport. And what do you get in return?
Nothing really. Serezha and I got our cars from CSKA. And we got them only after Toyota I brought from Japan started breaking up. Serezha got an apartment recently; before, he lived with his parents, sister and her child in Khimki.

What about your victories? So much of your health and will went into them. Which one was the most difficult?
The Olympic Games. I was so nervous before the first step onto the ice. Olympic gold is probably the most important to us.

Let’s go back in time a few years. What are you first memories about the time when Sergei and you were paired together?
I was very happy that I was chosen and noticed. I was so grateful to our coach. By the way, perhaps, one of the reasons of declining interest in figure skating is that coaches don’t want to work. Children have no place to train. It turns out that a coach trains a pair to a certain level and then that pair is taken away to more famous coach. Those coaches do not get paid enough; don’t get anything in return, no attention. And happens something that I hate: everybody wants to receive but do not want to work for it. All this system should be changed, but how?

Katyusha, let’s get away from problems. Let’s talk about you and Serezha. You’ve been together for a long time — aren’t you bored with each other?
Strangely enough, we only argue on the ice as a part of working process. Off the ice, we have a great relationship, we like to be together. Maybe I am more expressive, Serezha is gentler. And both of us are able to compromise (maybe I do it a bit less). We respect each other.

Do you have similar tastes?
We understand each other. We even agree on costumes. We like music; Depeche Mode is our mutual passion. We love dogs, have you seen mine? We both drive cars. Both of us study at Institute of Physical Culture, Sergei is further along.

What do you do when you have free time?
My God, what are you talking about! We don’t have free time. In theory, I like to walk in the country, in the forest, in silence.

And what would you imagine an ideal man should be?
Are there ideal men? (Laughs). And what are they for? The most important is for a man and a woman to understand each other.

What about you and Serezha? Sorry for a tactless question, but nevertheless — we are so used to our skating pairs eventually becoming families...
I don’t know. We’ve been together for a long time and it is well. And getting married? We don’t have enough time for that as well...

They have a new start in life. And God let it be victorious, interesting and successful. And — necessarily — together!

By O.Kalashnikova. Photo by S. Kuznetsov. 1990.
Translated by ©
Special thanks to Irina Bulgakova for this article.