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Stars Of Figure Skating Ready To Honor Grinkov

February 27, 1996

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Each night, they put on their best faces and try to put on their best show. Most nights, it works.

Tonight, for a score of skaters, the feelings will be intense, at times perhaps even overwhelming. The tears surely will come as they honor a fallen member of their troupe.

``A Celebration of a Life″ by the Stars On Ice tour will pay tribute to Sergei Grinkov, who died last November of a heart attack at age 28. The show at the Hartford Civic Center will feature quite probably the greatest collection of figure skating talent ever on the same ice surface. And it will be highlighted by a singles performance by Katya Gordeeva, Grinkov’s widow.

``Every night we step onto the ice since we started the tour back in December, he is always in our hearts,″ said Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic champion and a mainstay of the tour. ``This definitely is going to be special.

``I think we’re lucky we’re in a position where we can express feelings out on the ice, and I think we want to have a fun time out there and smile, like Katya says, but also because we’re remembering the fun we had out there with Sergei and the times we shared out on the ice together.

``It’s really going to be a celebration, that is what we all want to do _ a memory of what he brought to the sport and what he brought to all our lives.″

For Gordeeva, Monday was a welcome chance to reunite with many of her peers who have rallied in support since Grinkov died on the ice during a practice session at Lake Placid, N.Y. Gathered at a short news conference and a lengthy rehearsal was the entire Stars On Ice cast, including such Olympic medalists as Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, Katarina Witt, Paul Wylie and Rosalynn Sumners; guest stars Oksana Baiul, Viktor Petrenko, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Alexander Fadeev and Yuka Sato.

The only performer from tonight’s program who was absent for the workout at the International Skating Center of Connecticut in nearby Simsbury was 1988 Olympic champion Brian Boitano.

``All of this support means I’m still here and still can smile and skate,″ Gordeeva said. ``I have my friends and everyone around me here. If I never have these friends, I don’t know where I’d be now.″

When she takes the ice at the conclusion of the first act Tuesday night, skating her personal tribute to Grinkov to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, will there be a dry eye in the house?

``I can’t describe my feelings,″ Gordeeva said. ``I’m so happy to see everyone here and I hope the night will be so long and will never end.″

Hamilton, one of the founders of Stars On Ice and its guiding force for a decade, has found this season a difficult one. But seeing Gordeeva and her 3-year-old daughter by the sideboards during the rehearsal brightened the atmosphere for Hamilton and all the other skaters Monday.

``All of us, on the way from the airport, our hearts were pounding, because we know just what this event means to all of us, especially Katya and Dasha,″ he said. ``Stars on Ice for the last 10 years has been put together by the skaters for the skaters, and it has got a wonderful feeling of family. We all care for each other a great deal. It’s more than just being temporary or just being a friend; there are ties that bind that are hard to even describe.

``This whole year has been, I guess, trying to come terms with everything, and this is a wonderful way for us to celebrate a truly special member of our family and to pay tribute to everything he stood for.

``I know I speak for everyone when I say I can’t even describe how much we miss him. It has been a devastating year. This is a way of coming together and doing something special and share the feelings of family that we have been over the last 10 years.″

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