They skated for each other

During a morning practice session at the Lake Placid Olympic skating rink, the world famous Russian figure skater and the numerous Olympic, World, Soviet, Russian, European champion Sergei Grinkov together with partner and wife Ekaterina Gordeeva worked on a new program for their next performance in a professional ice show. Sergey has lifted Katia and suddenly has literally collapsed on the ice...

At this skating rink they were alone – other skaters were training at a neighboring one. Katia and Marina Zueva (their coach) were the first who appeared near fallen Sergei. In a few minutes, an Ambulance has arrived to the sports arena, unfortunately, despite all efficiency, it was a bit late. For one hour, doctors at the medical center struggled for a life of the 28-year-old Russian, but were powerless to do anything – Grinkov died at 12:28 p.m. According to the preliminary diagnosis, the death was a result of an unexpected cardiac arrest.

Autopsy has shown that Sergei suffered serious illness of cardiovascular system. Work malfunctions of the main human body part have started long ago. Sergei's heart was unusually big as a result of chronically high blood pressure. Moreover, according to Doctor Francis Vargas, within last 24 hours of Sergei’s life, he suffered a milder heart attack.

It is possible, that there was a genetic predisposition. As John Burns, a figure skating expert from California who knew Sergei for 16 years, has told, Sergei’s father died from a heart attack when he was not yet 50. According to her, Sergei complained of back pains and used medicine to help himself.

"That was the perfect pair; - two time Olympic champion Dick Button said when he learned of the tragedy. Their skating had force, power and perfect quality, not many of world leading skaters possess that kind of skating quality: the skill to glide on ice as through air."

"They had everything, - famous Russian dance coach Natalia Dubova, who now works in the US, emphasizes. – Perfect technique, romantic compositions, and clean elements. They were skating for each other. You could feel their connection even from spectators’ seats."

Sergei was born on February 4, 1967 in Moscow. When he was 19 (author’s mistake), he began to skate with Ekaterina, not very exited about it because he wanted to become a singles skater. But the coaches had more intuition about it: the new duet practically at once and for long has become a leader among world figure skating pairs. Among numerous titles at national championships of the USSR and Russia, they won two European, four World and two Olympic (1988 and 1994) titles.

In 1990 Sergei and Ekaterina became professionals and performed in professional shows on ice in different world countries. They have introduced their unique style to the skating world: extraordinarily organic combination of physical and artistic elements.

In Lake-Placid, they trained for new season of Stars on Ice show, which has been successfully organized for ten years by Discover Card. The first season’s performance was supposed to take place in Oakland, CA on December, 27.

Sergei and Ekaterina were married on April 21, 1991. The next year in September they had a daughter Daria born, and a week after giving birth, Katia came back on the ice. The young couple bought a house in Tampa, FL, and then moved to Simsbury, CT. They frequently visited Moscow, “living two houses” as New York Times had put it. It is a pity that they visited Moscow, where Sergei will be buried, less often. Maybe in that case, taking into account love of our sport doctors to make individual tests often, the tragedy could be prevented.

It is difficult to tell what the life of 24-year-old Ekaterina will be like. However not so long ago she has told American journalists, that she and Sergei were planning to coach young girls and boys in the future. Will Ekaterina become a coach after the death of her husband?

"In any case we will help to settle her future, - Morris Stillwell, the president of the US figure skating association, said. - And we will never forget Sergei's huge contribution to development of pairs figure skating."

Anatoly Lazarev from New York. Copyright by © Ekho Planety (Echo of the Planet) November - December 1995
Special thanks to Irina Zolotareva for this article