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Torvill and Dean back in Sarajevo after 30 years

February 13, 2014

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — It was the first, and so far only, perfect score in Olympic skating history. And when Britain’s Torvill and Dean were through with their legendary Bolero routine at the Sarajevo Olympics, the sport was changed forever.

Three decades after their gold medal-winning performance of Ravel’s haunting masterpiece in 1984, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean returned to the ice Thursday, dancing the same routine at the same rink in the same costumes.

Except this time the perfect score came not from nine judges, but from thousands of Sarajevans who jumped to their feet waving signs proclaiming 6.0.

“We loved the response of the audience,” Torvill, now 54, said afterward.

“When we originally did Bolero it was a tragic love story,” added Dean, 55. “But tonight it was a celebration, a happy event.”

With the Olympics underway in Sochi, the pair said they were thrilled at the opportunity to skate in an arena they consider “hallowed ground.”

“We are so honored and humbled to be invited back to Sarajevo and come back to the place where our lives changed,” said Dean.”

Sarajevo is right here,” he added, touching his heart.

On Valentine’s Day 30 years ago, the two became the first dancing pair ever to receive a perfect 6 from all judges in a skating competition.

The sports hall, Zetra, was destroyed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war that took 100,000 lives. It was rebuilt in 1999 and the skaters were here to help promote the Youth Olympics that Sarajevo will host in 2017 and to mark the Olympic anniversary.

Sarajevo’s mayor, Ivo Komsic, noted that he too can ice skate “but not on my feet,” so he stood outside the rink as he thanked the two Olympians and other young British performers on hand to help raise funds for a permanent ice rink in preparation for the Youth games.

Sarajevo was besieged throughout the war by Bosnian Serb forces who shelled and sniped daily, killing over 11,000 people in the city. The enemies divided the country into a Serb part and another shared by Bosniaks and Croats. The border runs through the former Olympic village, now a Sarajevo suburb.

Administratively, there are two Sarajevos. Torvill and Dean’s goodwill performance is playing a symbolic role in healing divisions: The official invitation was signed by the city’s two mayors and stamped with their emblems in a rare show of cooperation.

The Olympic site looks very different decades — and one calamitous war — later. The stadium has been repaired but it is surrounded by tombstones of the war dead.

Torvill and Dean said they watched the tragedy on TV and wondered what had happened to the wonderful people they met in Sarajevo.

“Today we had a very emotional moment,” Dean said, choking back tears. Regaining his composure, he explained how he and Torvill had just met the girl who picked up flowers from the ice before they went out for their medal-winning performance.

“To personally hear her story, from the 6-year-old girl who picked the flowers up and the subsequent life afterward and then today, being here with her daughter, a generation that had gone through some difficult, tragic times and yet now they are so hopeful and joyful. ... That really brought it home for us today,” he said.

Torvill said she often wondered whether the little girl they had met at the Olympics was still skating.

When they saw her again — now a proud mom — they were in for a surprise: Her daughter was among the young skaters performing in Thursday’s gala event.

“For a few moments I had forgotten all of my problems in life, and I just felt 30 years younger,” said 64-year-old Hajrija Alijagic.

It was her daughter the skating legends remember as the flower girl.

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