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CBS to Air Emotional Tribute to Fallen Skater Friday Night

February 29, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ In 30 years as a TV sportscaster, Verne Lundquist says he has never spent a night quite like the one on which Ekaterina Gordeeva bid a teary farewell to her fallen husband and skating partner, Sergei Grinkov.

``It was one of the most moving events I’ve ever witnessed,″ Lundquist said. ``I can’t compare it to anything else. The emotion was so pervasive in the building.″

Gordeeva and a host of other skaters took part in a special tribute Tuesday night in Hartford, Conn., to Grinkov, who died last Nov. 20 of a heart attack. Friday night, CBS will present a two-hour special entitled ``Sergei Grinkov: Celebration of a Life,″ taped during the exhibition.

It was Gordeeva’s first performance since the death of her husband, with whom she teamed to win Olympics pairs gold medals in 1988 and ’94. Gordeeva skates solo as well as performing in a finale with other skaters.

Her solo performance, which will be done without commentary, is a true piece of television drama in which she manages to express both her sorrow and her gratitude for the outpouring of support. It’s worth watching just to see the change of expressions on her face.

``Just watching Katia throughout the day, it seemed like it would be really difficult for her to perform,″ said Scott Hamilton, who left his role as a CBS commentator for this show to return as a performer.

``She seemed to be getting a little pale and during rehearsal we were all very concerned for her,″ Hamilton said. ``But when it came time to do what he wanted to do and pay tribute to him, the courage and strength and determination and love really came shining through.

``It’s the most amazing figure skating performance I’ve ever seen.″

All proceeds from the show, including those of CBS, will go into a fund to assist Gordeeva and her daughter, 3-year-old Daria.

``I can’t imagine what Scott and the other skaters were going through,″ Lundquist said. ``I thought every athlete elevated himself and met the moment. It was a memorable moment.″

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