From a toy store: Love, jealousy and death

Webmaster disclaimer: This is a very controversial article. Many Russian fans, including me, really didn't like this article and considered it very disrespectful to Katia and Gordeeva and Grinkov memory. There are several reasons for this that I'd like to explain before you read it. First of all, it is the tone of the article or, so called, author's voice which I tried to translate as best as possible, but when you read it in Russian you feel that the author has sarcasm all over and questions true feelings and intentions of Gordeeva and Grinkov, especially Gordeeva, as if the author doesn't believe that what Gordeeva and Grinkov had was real. Other thing worth mentioning is facts, that were made up by the author herself!!! For example, at the end of the article author uses Zinezone chat (of course she doesn't say that, but a good fan can easily recognize it) where she uses freedom to add some things that were not said in the actual chat. Finally, many Russian fans disagree with author's opinions that Gordeeva and Grinkov didn't deserve gold in Lillehammer and didn't leave a memorable program, I think it is totally ridiculous.

On November 20 Sergei collapsed on the ice of the training rink in Lake Placid. Leaning over him, Katia heard him whispering "It hurts...". Hospital. Brightly lighted room. Sergei, for some unknown reason still in his skates, is lying on a bed. Katia is begging the doctors to do the operation, although she doesn't know if that's necessary. The diagnosis is heart deficiency. Unfortunately, it's incurable. He died. He was 28.

"Last time we went through the medical examination at the end of 1993, no, even at the beginning of 1994, right before the Olympics when we were the part of Russian team. We had our heart and stress tests. If anything was wrong we surely would be informed right away. In the summer of 1995 we had blood tests done, Sergei's cholesterol level was above normal. But we didn't pay attention to it. I didn't even think to ask my husband to check his heart."

Sergei complained about his back for a long time. He had a consultation at an American clinic. The doctor didn't find anything wrong with his spine and advised the skater to check with a cardiologist. Grinkov, evidently, didn't do it...

It could be that his heart problems came with the genes. His father Mikhail also died of a heart attack in 1990, but he was 50.

Seventeen years ago
Marina Cherkasova, the world champion and Olympics silver medallist in pair skating recollects:
"Grinkov trained with a group of Galina Borisovna Titova, I don't remember who was Katia's coach. When CSKA held "internal" exhibitions, Katia always performed. She wasn't a good jumper, but her skating was very artistic. Sergei was lazy. Galina Borisovna couldn't cope with him and, obviously, got tired of it, so she decided to expel him. At that time I came up to Zhuk and suggested: "Maybe, we'll get him into pairs? We need boys." He replied: "What are you talking about, he is so weak?" But he took Sergei in anyway. Sergei was either 12 or 14. And later, when Katia came to us, she was very tiny, even tinier then I. Sergei began to grow up, we taught him how to do lifts. He was so weak, he couldn't even lift Gordeeva. Then little by little they began to do jumps.... By the way, elements of two-time world champions Berezhnaya - Sikharulidze resemble elements of Gordeeva - Grinkov very much.. But artistically Katia has no competition. She even has that theatrical quality to her. She probably has an artist in her genes, her dad danced for the Aleksandrov's dance company."

The daughter of a dancer and the son of a policeman became a skating pair in 1982.

Excerpts from "My Sergei":
(ch. "Sergei" - pg. 27, here and thereafter I reffer to a hard cover American edition - I.S.)

"Miss Calgary"
Their victories at the 1986-1987 world championships made someone jealous. Right before the 1988 Olympics in Calgary some well-wishers appeared, for example, someone, who called himself a journalist, called Grinkov's parents and claimed that Sergei has committed a crime. Then he started to call Gordeevs and wrote letters with threats. Katia and Sergei, not used to this kind of sport intrigues, were upset. Especially Katia. But that didn't brake them down, moreover, they began to train like crazy.Gordeeva, for example, insisted on including a very complicated parallel triple jump into their free program. Some specialists asserted that their short program to the music of Bize was not suited for them. Nevertheless, "Toreador" had won, and Katia was named "Miss Calgary," also she received many invitations to appear in movies.

It took awhile for the romance to start

After the 1989 world championships, which they won with an incredible effort because several months before the competition Katia injured her leg and walked on crutches, I (the journalist) asked Sergei an innocent question or at least I thought so:
"Katia has noticeably changed. Has your relationship changed somehow?"
He became quiet, but Stas Leonovich clapped on his shoulder and said: "He is courting her. Why would you feel shy, "old man"?"
"Are you quarreling often?"
"Sometimes," - Grinkov happily changed the topic of the conversation and added - "but only at training sessions. Where else? They say "the truth comes from a dispute." In life, we try to understand each other and find common interests. For example, Katia likes to needlepoint, therefore we look for new patterns anywhere we go. Sometimes she gives them to me as a present, I like how she uses her fantasy and invention to make them. As for me, I like to spend every free minute on reading. I like Hemingway, Ilf and Petrov. For the last championships I brought with me "The White Guards" by Bulgakov. At first I thought that this book is too serious for this competition, but liked it so much that couldn't put it down."

Looks like their romance started to grow much earlier.
Excerpts from "My Sergei":
(ch. "Sergei" - last paragraph at pg. 41; ch. "A holiday wish" - 2 paragraph at pg. 76)

...Before the wedding, in 1990, Katia was baptized. The same priest married Sergei and Katia, baptized Daria and performed Sergei's funeral...

The coach
They renounced their coach and never mentioned his name in numerous interviews.
Excerpts from "My Sergei":
(ch. "The miserable, pitiless Zhuk"- 2 paragraph at pg. 47)

Zhuk recollected:
"In 1986 they finished second at the European Championships, and first at Worlds in Geneva. After that, during the summer at Issyk-Kul lake we've learned an incredible number of lifts. Later we trained with Katia in Betta. One time, a head of agriculture came up to us and said: "Katia, I've read your interview in a newspaper, you had so many warm words about your coach, and even confessed that sometimes he is closer to you than your father." But in a month she signed a statement about her leaving me. The parents of Katia and Serezha were sitting at my house and begging me to keep Katia and Sergei with me. But what could I do? I know that when I refused to work with Kondrashova and Fadeev, Ania (Kondrashova) said that she would take away Grinkov, because he was on her "hook." But I didn't know what did they catch him on! I asked them: "Help me. I'll make everything all right." But, I think, they were forced..."

Zhuk's lessons sufficed them for four years. Then the pair began to have many problems with skating technique. They turned pro in 1990 - is it usual for leaders to turn pro in the middle of the Olympic cycle? When they did come back for a short time to amateur sport before the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, they skated excellently at the Europeans in Copenhagen. In Lillehammer, gold was given (here author means it as a "gift" not that they really deserved it! - I.S.) to them. Unofficially, skating of Mishkutenok-Dmitriev was considered the best.

Unfortunately, they didn't leave a memorable program, like "Dreams of Love" of Belousova-Protopopov or "Kalinka" of Rodnina-Zaitsev. Maybe just "Moonlight sonata"...

Excerpts from "My Sergei":
(ch. "Goodbye")

Katia put her husband's wedding ring on a chain around her neck, but she doesn't cry anymore when looking at Sergei's pictures. "He knows everything I do," she is sure. "I ask for his advise and talk to him all the time. It doesn't matter that he is far away at Vagankovskoe cemetery in Moscow, I always feel his presence."

"Is Dasha interested in figure skating?"
"She tried it, but I can't say, she likes it. She likes gymnastics. Anyway I'm not going to pressure her. She has to decide by herself."

A garden for Sergei
In a few last years Katia performed in pro competitions as a single skater. She skates in the famous ice show "Stars on ice." Here is one of her last interviews to American journalists:
"I have a very busy season ahead. Do you want me to show you my schedule?"

"How do you get ready for each performance?"
"Every rehearsal takes 45 minutes, then a little break. Usually I spend 3 or 4 hours on ice daily. That makes me stay in shape."

"You train continuously. Do you have time for housework?"
"You know, I am very grateful to my mom, who lives with me in America and helps me with housekeeping."

"Which skaters do you like?"
"Oh, there are many wonderful skaters! For example, those who skate in our show. I always enjoy their skating very much. And also I like pair skating very much."

Do you have a favorite program?"
"Yes, I think, it's the one Sergei and I skated in 1994."

"What is your opinion about modern skating?"
"It has become more technical. Jumps are more difficult. We'll see a lot of quadruple jumps in the next century."

"Do you come to Moscow?"
"Yes, I come here every summer with Dasha. Moscow is a wonderful city now. I feel excellent here."

"Dasha grows up in America. Are you happy about it?"
"Yes, here is more opportunities for studying, skating, tennis. Simsbury, where we live, is a safe place. But Dasha knows her native language, we speak Russian at home."

"You lost your husband four years ago..."
"I don't want to talk about it."

"What is your usual day when at home?"
"The same as any other woman would have. I take Dasha to school, then I train and come back home in the evening. The same every day."

"What do you do when you have free time?"
"Nothing, I spend it at home. It's my favorite pastime. I am a hermit."

"Did you hear that you have beneficial influence on spectators?"
"Yes, I was told about it. I am very grateful to everybody who thinks so. I love my fans very much. I couldn't go on with skating without their support. It's great to feel, that somebody needs my skating."

"You worked as a tele-commentator. Do you plan to do it again some time?"
"This year I haven't been invited to comment yet. So, probably, not. It's a very difficult work. You should be able to put words into sentences creatively and know what to say and when. The truth is, it was interesting to try myself in the new role. I liked it."

"A company builds a special Palace for skaters, and there is Sergei's garden. Is that so?"
"Yes. Great skaters will be celebrated in this Palace. There are a lot of flowers and bushes around it. Also, there is a table with a very big map in the garden. Countries, where Sergei and I performed, are underlined with a thick pencil. There are a lot of small waterfalls in the garden. It's so beautiful here...."

Katia has a romance with Olympic champion Ilia Kulik, who is 6 years her junior. They skate together in Stars on Ice. Ilia is a gifted figure skater and unusually beautiful young man. After the Olympics he was chosen as one of the 50 most beautiful people of the world. He is generous, kind and knows how to treat the women he loves. Before Kulik, Gordeeva had a friend-dancer from Mariinka (Mariinsky theatre).

But perhaps, it doesn't matter a bit.
Sergei is from another life. He is for ever!

Daria Srebnitskaya. Copyright by © November 1999 Soviet Sport