Broken Ice


On November 20 on the ice of the training center in Lake Placid, a Russian priest held a service for a great figure skater Sergei Grinkov. He held the service at the same place where a year ago Sergei collapsed, where his athletic and strong heart stopped during a training practice. According to the center's pathologist Dr. Francis Wargy, the left coronary artery was fully blocked; therefore, blood could not get to the whole right and partial left side of the heart. There was no chance of survival. There are 12 months in a year. 365 days. Life did not stop. During these 12 months, the shock of the news changed to a bitter sorrow. Sergei and Katia's little daughter grows up and pointing to her cross says: "My farther is up there. He can see me." Katia Gordeeva came back to the ice, but this time she skates alone. On December 14 in Landover, Professional Championships will start. Katia received a special invitation for these championships. Mother Anna Filippovna grew older: "How can I stop my feeling of guilt that I gave you such a short life..." The blow to the talented young heart have touched the lives of many. The broken rear view mirror of a car broke lives and ice.

...And Dasha looks very much like Sergei. There is a saying that if a daughter looks like her father, she is going to have a happy life.

Mother, Anna Filippovna:
He loved to laugh a lot. He knew how to be joyful since childhood. If he stayed at home during the summer, he liked running to the river to swim. After a lot of swimming he would get cold, so he came home and went to take a hot bath. After that he ran to the river again. He was so lively. He ran back and forth, so I could not keep up with him to change his clothes.

I remember, in the fourth grade he had a choreographer who had connections with Bolshoy Theater. Once they had an open lesson in choreography and people from Bolshoy came to look for talented kids. We didn't know anything about it. After the lesson we came out and saw that Serezha got high marks. I was called out and told: "You know, we really liked your son, we can arrange his studies in Bolshoy Theater school. Everything is going to be paid for by us, he'll learn French, have great perspectives... So think about it". We didn't know if there would be any perspectives in figure skating. So my husband and I seat and think about it. "So Serezha what will we do about it?" - "Mom, what about the ice?" That was the end of our uncertainties: if he said "ice," ice it is. Although, it didn't seem like he wanted it so bad before. He even was a little hooligan - threw snow balls at somebody or something like that. Coaches complained about it... Oh well... At Bolshoy they even told me that he would be a soloist in four years.

Galina Vasilkevich, first coach:
He was growing up a good boy. I cannot say that he was very quiet - just as a usual boy, a normal child. Until a certain age, he didn't show outstanding results. Until the fifth grade he was very average in his group. Then in eighth grade, he was fourth at championships in Czechoslovakia. After that I told him: "Serezha, you have to try pairs." His mother, Anna Filippovna, almost cried - "We are satisfied like it is..." Serezha was very upset himself.

Anna Filippovna:
When he was home it was a holiday for us, unfortunately that didn't happen very often. Starting from the fourth grade he was traveling all the time. He loved his sister Natasha very much. Even all his friends saw it. He just adored her, shared all secrets with her. I found out about everything later from Natasha. And when he fell in love with Katia, Natasha was the first one to know about it. I thought that Katia was only like a little sister to him... When they left, if he knew that someone is going to America he called: "Mom, write me a letter. Take a notebook and fill it all in." I take a notebook and write, and write, and write. Then he reads it and says: "Mom, you are tricky! The whole notebook seems filled but your handwriting is huge!"

Galina Borisovna:
He was so kind. When he was already a champion, he came to CSKA to see my students: "You have to listen to what Galina Borisovna have to say!" I have a student - Roma Serov, Serezha really liked him. He brought him some tee-shirts from abroad. Once he said: "Roma, your snickers don't look good, here are some new ones for you." Today Roma skates in Serezha's boots, Katia brought it to us after everything happened. We remade some costumes for him.

It was not even a shock. I just could not believe it. He was training with me almost for ten years. There were checkups twice a year. There was nothing unusual, he was practically healthy... I liked how his family treated his skating. Even though Serezha was an average skater in the group, he was a good and balanced boy. His parents were very serious about his skating. They worked hard for it. It is known that the big sport is harmful to the health.

Anna Filippovna:
He was so emotional. He didn't want the boys and Sasha Fadeev talk about it in the dressing room. They were boys and didn't have anything to do with girls at that age. I told him: "Serezha, if you don't like it we can start dancing." I felt that he was not strong enough for pairs. I called Galina Borisovna: "What have you done, he does not smile anymore." - "You have to see him on the ice spinning her!" I told him: "Serezha, they say she is very little..." - "Try to spin her..." He did... Serezha was very upset with Galina Borisovna, because she practically didn't let him to be a singles skater. But she insisted: "You'll thank me later."

You know, he changed a lot in a year. He went to a summer training camp being a boy and returned already an adult. We always talked to him about Katia: "Serezha, she is a very little girl, you don't have to be shy - help her to carry things and take care of her... If she'll injure her leg or something else, it's your common fate, so don't pay attention to anybody making fun of you." And well it went. They were friends, not really close ones. Everything happened much later... They were always together... Felt each others every muscle...

Anna Filippovna:
I always had to go to school and explain his smiles. He even had a nickname "Smile." The teacher will tell him to come to the blackboard to solve some problem and he just smiles. They'll call me up: "He is laughing at us." I'll tell them that his face is this way. When he comes home I'll tell him: "Son, you have to be more serious, they are the teachers." He laughs and says: "Mom, what if I make my face like this..." - and tries to make a serious face. But he did a bad job at it. Now, Dasha smiles just the same, it was not so noticeable before, but you can see it now.

...Calls me at three in the morning, sounds so happy: "Mom! I'm calling from a hospital. We got a daughter and I..." He held Katia's hand when she was giving birth. "Mom, the baby came out and they let me hold her..." And he was with Dasha at first because Katia didn't feel well, she had a difficult birth, then she had a headache. He was so clumsy, but took care of the baby. He was really happy then... Here are the photos! Look he looks like he almost melted in the baby, he shines from happiness.

Natasha, sister:
On November 20 Russian priest had a service for the dead on the ice where Serezha died, first in Russian and then in English so everybody could understand. We had a day of tears, but in America - day of smile. A year ago the performance of famous figure skaters was called "A Celebration of a Life," this year they call it "Smile day." Everybody smiled, because Serezha loved to smile.

Anna Filippovna:
They wanted to get married in 1990, but Serezha's father died. After a year they got married. Serezha came home and said: "Mom, I'll go to baptize..." - "Baptize who?" - "Katyuha." After that they married.

Then they skated in Tatiana Tarasova's theater. Serezha had an operation for shoulder injury at that time and they almost did not skate. I remember, he came from America and asked me if I wanted to see a new program. He turned the VCR on. Oh my God! There were chips of bone flying all over... He put the wrong tape in. That was his operation.

He never complained about his heart. He always had back problems, we now think maybe the pain gave us the signal. He was under doctors' supervision since he was five, so I didn't worry about him getting sick. "Serezha, how are you?" - "Mom, they checked us with all kinds of different things. Everything is all right." I was always afraid of plain crashes - they were on the plain so often. So I asked him always to call me after they landed. He never gave me his telephone number, because he knew that it was very expensive for me to call. So he called me himself. He called me before the tragedy too. We had a special evening at work. Natasha helped me to dress up and told me not to come home by myself, she said I looked like Carmen. He called: "Natasha, how did you dress her up?" He laughed and laughed. He was so joyous! And Katyuha told us that Marina Zueva came to work on the new program before the tragedy, and they went out to dinner: "he laughed we had such a nice time." Maybe he looked pale, but I thought about that only after... Now I think, maybe he didn't tell us something, because we would panic.

Serezha read a lot. He didn't like to do homework, but loved to read... He loved Chekhov, laughed a lot and told me to read it. Usually he was reading, watching TV and exercising his legs at the same time. He have read all the books we had in the house, always brought cases full of books from trips. Once a film crew came to his school to look for a kid to play little Gagarin in a movie. At that time he lost his front baby teeth. So the film company decided that little Gagarin cannot be without teeth.

He always had light straight hair, but when he grew up they became darker and curly. When he came back from his trips always asked us to tell him about ourselves. We ask him: "Serezha, how are you?" - "What about me? Tell me about everyone".

Now Katia skates by herself very well. She works so hard. Marina Zueva still helps to put her programs together. Programs are still as beautiful and lyrical as the ones they skated with Serezha. Dasha stays with her grandmother and grandfather. She started skating, takes gymnastic and swimming lessons, knows English. She is busy like all American kids. Dasha says: "My father is in heaven. Anyulya, ask God to let daddy look at me." Dasha still remembers him. She says: "My father is up there," and shows up her cross. Katia did a good job, she asked child psychologist right away, she didn't want Dasha to have emotional trauma.

Anna Filippovna:
They went and I said to Serezha: "Serezha, I have a bad feeling, I always was dreaming of taking care of your child..." "Mom, I'll make Misha for you." His father's name is Mikhail. Now I look at the videos: God, he looks so close as if I could take him from the screen...

P.S. The article included some parts from Ekaterina Gordeeva's book "My Sergei." (I didn't include those parts because you can read them in the book - Irina S.)

Photo © Yuri Dojc. Copyright by © Moskovsky Komsomolets November 1996
Special thanks to Oksana Volikova for this article.