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Katya Prepares Tribute to Late Husband

February 14, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Katya Gordeeva had no clue how popular she and husband Sergei Grinkov had become until tragedy struck and the world rallied to her support.

Grinkov died on the ice at Lake Placid in November, the victim of a heart attack at 28. Suddenly, shockingly, Katya was a widow, a single parent of a 3-year-old daughter.

The gold medals from two Olympics and all the other championships and trophies meant little. At 24, Katya felt so alone.

Then other skaters and coaches and members of the sport’s worldwide community offered their condolences and their help. Fans from everywhere sent notes and letters and faxes, all filled with encouragement and words of comfort.

``I never thought we touched so many hearts,″ Gordeeva said Tuesday. ``I got huge support and it was very helpful.

``When we came back from Russia after the (40-day) period of mourning, and I realized how many people I was getting letters from, and we received so many supporting cards and phone calls. I never expected such great support from people. I never thought we were giving to people so many good feelings.″

She would like to continue doing so. On Feb. 27, Katya will skate a tribute to her fallen husband at ``A Celebration of a Life,″ a special presentation of the Stars On Ice tour at Hartford, Conn.

She will perform to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony as the regular cast _ Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt, Paul Wylie, Kurt Browning and Rosalynn Sumners _ will be joined by special guests Oksana Baiul, Brian Boitano, Viktor Petrenko, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Yuka Sato and Alexander Fadeev.

``It was very difficult when we created this number,″ she said. ``To create this, the first two to three days, it was hard to do anything. It was that the old feelings were very fresh and my thoughts were very sensitive.

``Now, I’m trying to skate this number well so people will understand me and what I am trying to show.

``The message I will try to send to the people will be that this is not a story about myself, but about everyone. For all people who have had their period of time in their life that they went through that was very difficult, when they lost somebody or lost themselves and they have to start over again.

``They must stand up from their knees and go forward, find the strength in their hearts and maybe find the person you have to live for.″

That person for Gordeeva is her daughter Daria. They live in Simsbury, Conn., not far from Hartford. Daria attends school three hours a day, freeing her mother to train at the International Skating Center of Connecticut.

``She helps me to smile again,″ Katya said. ``And to be a mother and a human.″

She plans to stay in Connecticut for the present; making any long-range plans is out of the question, she admitted.

``After this thing that happened, I really hate to plan anything. But I am really happy to skate now and for as long as I enjoy it.

``Those days were hard for me in Russia. I was feeling like a lost person. The club where I started to skate with Sergei gave me ice and was very good with me, but there is more opportunity for me here in the United States.″

Gordeeva was disturbed by several incidents when she was in Russia.

``In Russia, they were asking me about interviews and not even waiting for the mourning period of 40 days. I think that is not very human.″

After the tribute performance, Gordeeva will skate with Stars On Ice on a Canadian tour and in Japan. She also has been invited to an April event in Paris.

Whenever she performs on the ice, it will be alone.

``I don’t have huge plans for the future as a singles skater,″ she said. ``I like to skate and I have no plans to skate with another partner.″

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