Success Secret

I wanted to meet her from the moment I first saw her on TV. She is so little, almost like a little sparrow, and already a champion. Katia was only fourteen and Serezha eighteen then. Not many knew them before the World championships. After the Worlds, many figure skating fans worshiped them.

I first met Katia Gordeeva in the spring of 1986.
- Did you believe you're going to be the first?
- Of course. I always believe in victory. But your question is incorrectly stated. I didn't win by myself, Serezha and I won together.

Sergei Grinkov was not present at the moment, so I phrased my question as I did on purpose. The matter is that in figure skating a girl-partner is always considered a face of the duo. Most journalists wrote about Katia when talking about pair's victory. They were loud in her praises, on the other hand Grinkov's name was mentioned only briefly. After that kind of publicity Katia could become too proud. However, she says that SHE didn't win, but THEY did.

Later, I asked Sergei: "Who is the leader of the pair?"
"I never gave it a thought. Katia is more organized than I - he reflected - she is very responsible. If she struggles with an element, she won't leave the ice until she does it well. And she won't let me leave either. I guess, she is the leader."

- Don't you ever fight?
- You won't believe it but we don't.

When they started skating together, Katia's mother made Sergei promise that he will do everything possible to keep Katia from injury. Her mother understood that it is practically impossible, but she is the mother - end of discussion. Sergei gave his word and kept it until November of 1988.

In November something unthinkable happened. During one of their lifts, Katia fell on the ice and injured her head. She was taken to a hospital right away. Nobody will ever know how bad Sergei felt about it. He didn't hold on to her and had no time to insure her safety. There was no guarantee that somebody else could do anything in the same situation. But he has promised and didn't follow through.

Every day he went to the hospital and brought Katia flowers. In two months, the Calgary Olympics were to start. Katia asked Serezha to keep training without her because they must go to the Olympics.

Fortunately, everything turned out well and after two weeks, they continued training together. Once again, I asked Katyusha:
"Aren't you really afraid to fall during your jumps?"
"I am afraid," - she said now. "Probably all the skaters have the same fear. It is important to fight it during the jump and order yourself not to fall. When Serezha is close, I'm almost calm. There is hope that he will support me... Was it his fault that I got injured? I think not."

Blaming each other is not their habit. Maybe this is their secret of success? There is one more person in a team of Gordeeva and Grinkov. That is Stanislav Leonovich, a coach that "discovered" them and helped them to get to the Nationals. This coach was told not to train them because he was too young. Katia and Sergei were to train with a more experienced and famous figure skating specialist. But after a little while, Sergei convinced Katyusha that they have to go back to Leonovich, despite the fact that they would quickly become champions with the famous professional.

"I was against changing coaches from the beginning," - explained Serezha. "And then we found out that our venerable instructor can simply lie about innocent people. We often saw him drunk. He is very strong as a coach, but to train with a person you have no respect for... Why?"

Nobody expected such a strong decision from a young pair. Not everybody could question such an authority and refuse such a patron. But Sergei and Katia were not afraid. They won the struggle for a coach they believed in, with whom they wanted to reach new heights. In 1988 all three of them - Katyusha, Serezha and Stanislav Viktorovich reached the highest peak - the Olympics. In spite of Katia's injury, the coach's youth, and any obstacles, their "team" became the strongest in the world.

S. Dadygin. Copyright by © 1988 Soviet Sport
Special thanks to Oksana Volikova for this article.