Dateline - 1996

1996 interview with Katia on Dateline. This interview was mentioned by Jane Pauley when she again talked to Katia in 2004. Video - 12:47 min: 21,4 Mb.

Jane Pauley: They were perfection on ice. Figure skating experts say there has never been a pair like Gordeeva and Grinkov, but two Olympic gold medals and four World Championships didn't tell the story. They were in love; and when they skated it was obvious to all Gordeeva and Grinkov were skating for each other. But in November their love story took a tragic turn. Tonight, meet Ekaterina Gordeeva on her own, but not alone.

Her perspective on the ice is different these days. Now its her hands someone looks to for support. Ekaterina Gordeeva, Katia to her friends, is the big strong one in this skating pair. Her partner today is her little daughter, Daria.

Katia: Even if she'll see me and smile to me how can I, you know, be with the tears on the eyes? She will ask me right away why am I crying. She helps me a lot with this.

Jane Pauley: She has Sergei's face.
Katia: Yea, yea she has Sergei's face, definitely, and his smile.

Jane Pauley: A tiny but exuberant reminder of the man who was her partner in life.
Katia: He was very handsome. Smiled all the time. Strong, tough. A great man. Wonderful. I miss him on the ice very much.

Jane Pauley: She is not alone. Sergei Grinkov may have been the best male pair skater of all time. Together they were simply beautiful. A marriage of technical precision and breathtaking elegance. But it was not him we were meant to watch. Katia was the radiant centerpiece lighting up the arena, floating through the air, knowing that Sergei would always be there to gently return her to the ice. But what took them to another level was that cense of intimacy they conveyed as if no one was there but the two of them. They were simply a man and a woman in love.

They've been skating together for almost half of their lives. It all began here in Moscow when a coach decided 11-year-old Katia and 15-year-old Sergei would make a perfect pair.

Katia: I was alone and Sergei came over and we started to skate. The coach said that we should try to skate with each other, hand by hand.

Jane Pauley:: Were you nervous?
Katia: Yea, I think I was nervous, but very excited and interested.

Jane Pauley: Early on, the partnership did have its rough moments.
Katia: When he threw me I had to do certain rotations there and land on one foot. But of course I didn't land for about a half of a year on one foot. I was landing on my butt.

Jane Pauley: This went on for month after month, but eventually, the landings became flawless. And not too long after, Gordeeva and Grinkov became champions. By the time they skated for the Soviet Union in the 1988 Winter Olympics, they had already won three World pairs championships. But in Calgary they've showed the world what the new standard for gold would be. After their triumph, a reporter asked the 16-year-old Katia whether she might some day need a new partner. Even without a translator her answer was crystal clear. It was unthinkable.
Did he ever drop you?
Katia: Yea, two times in almost fifteen years.

Jane Pauley: She suffered a concussion as a result once and was hospitalized. He was distraught and, apparently, falling in love. Even a sports writer saw something developing. But he didn't rush her, he was 21, she was 16.
It was a New Years Eve, when what happened?
Katia: Everyone know this.

Jane Pauley: Well, anybody who doesn't is about to. What happened on that New Year's Eve?
Katia: Nothing, nothing really. He just asked me for the first time if he can kiss me.

Jane Pauley: He asked you?
Katia: Yea.

Jane Pauley: And what did you say?
Katia: Yes, of course. I mean, I didn't say anything.

Jane Pauley: You were ready though.
Katia: Yea.

Jane Pauley: In 1991, Sergei and Katia were married in Moscow. Soon, they became a threesome when their daughter Daria was born.
Katia: The gold medal is nothing compared to the feeling when Daria was born. It was like a gift. I never thought that I will be able to give birth to someone, to give life to someone. It is something very very much more special than Olympics.

Jane Pauley: It was partly for Daria, that they decided to join a colony of other Russian skaters who've gone Pro living and training in Connecticut. But reinstated as amateurs, they've come back in 1994 to win another gold in Lillehammer Olympic Games.

Thanksgiving together in Lake Placid have become an annual tradition for the members of Stars on Ice. They prepared for an upcoming cross-country tour. This was to have been Sergei and Katia's fourth year as professionals with the Stars on Ice family including Scott Hamilton, Paul Wylie, Katarina Witt, Kristi Yamaguchi, Kurt Browning and Ros Sumners. Though Sergei refused to speak the English he seemed to understand, his boundless good nature endeared him to everyone.

Scott Hamilton: He had a very wonderful kind of way about him off the ice. He was bigger than life. He was a mountain. He was a gentle giant.

Jane Pauley: November 20th, five days before the scheduled preview performance of this year's show. The cast was on a break from a run-through. It was just after 11 in the morning, Sergei and Katia were rehearsing alone with their coach, Marina Zueva. Katia noticed Sergei had missed a move in their program.

Katia: And he's kind of drop his arms. I understood that he was having some kind of problem. And I was asking if it was his back. He just said no. And then, I feel like he was feeling dizzy. He just quietly sat and then lay on the ice. And I kept asking him what's happened and..

Jane Pauley: He never answered. Within minutes emergency medical technicians arrived.
Katia: I understood that something very scary happened.
Scott Hamilton: He has not moved. He is changing color. And I looked in there, he was surrounded by people, and I looked into the window and I could see Katia. And she was scared out of her mind. My one main thought was: "Don't do this".

Jane Pauley: Grinkov was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital emergency room. Doctor Joe Schwartzberg was on duty that morning.
Doctor: He had no pulse, he had no blood pressure. He was entirely unconscious. And in spite of attempts to shock his heart with electricity several times, there was never any response.

Jane Pauley: Katia and her coach Marina nervously waited for word, but neither had any idea how grave the situation was.
You thought, he would be OK?
Katia: Yea. I mean, there were no questions about it.

Jane Pauley: Then the doctor gave her the terrible news, but at first she didn't understand its meaning.
Katia: She is saying that we lost him.By the time I translated for myself what she said, I still I could not believe. I mean, it all was very unbelievable and difficult to even understand.

Jane Pauley: Finally, she was allowed to return to her husband's side.
Katia: He was in his skates.It was this bad. He really seemed like he was fine and just sleeping. He was so big, so huge. I couldn't believe that something could happened with him.

Jane Pauley: She unlaced and removed his skates. Sergei Grinkov was buried in Moscow. He was 28 years old. Only last month, the skating world paid its final tribute to Sergei Grinkov. That night in Hartford, Ekaterina Gordeeva returned to the ice alone at the urging of her friend and coach Marina Zueva.
Katia: I went to the ice. Marina said: "You should feel that Sergei will help you to skate this number". When I started to skate, I felt double power, double energy. Really like someone helped me to skate.

Jane Pauley: An autopsy would reveal that the main artery to his heart had been blocked. His father had died of a heart attack, but Sergei had had no warning signs. His first symptom was fatal.
Katia: His death helped me to be stronger. I am very lucky that I had a chance to meet this wonderful person.

Jane Pauley: How do you want Sergei remembered?
Katia: I can't tell people how to remember Sergei. The only one thing I'd rather do is to skate. And as long as they see me on the ice, they will remember Sergei.

Jane Pauley: Katia is working on a book about her life with Sergei. And at some point, when she is ready, she will return to the ice. Her place in Stars on Ice tour is waiting for her.