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Gordeeva Goes It Alone On Ice

February 15, 1996

For 13 years, he was there for her. He accompanied her on every spin, lifted her and set her down safely, carried her from one end of the ice to the other, or simply jumped alongside her.

Now, he is gone. And Katya Gordeeva, a widow at 24, must go on.

On Feb. 27, Gordeeva will take the ice for a solo performance to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony during ``A Celebration of a Life.″ The show, at the Hartford Civic Center, will be a tribute to her late husband, Sergei Grinkov, who died of a massive heart attack on the ice _ almost in her arms _ at Lake Placid, N.Y., in November. Her career as a singles skater, albeit as an entertainer, not a competitor, will begin.

She expects it to continue on a Canadian tour with Stars On Ice, the troupe with which she will stage the Hartford tribute, then in Japan and perhaps a performance in Paris.

``I will work on some kind of program,″ Gordeeva said. ``I only have the one program now for the 27th, which is about the period of time I live in and what I go through now. In the future, we will create some new numbers, but I won’t do this program. This is a special program for Sergei.″

Katya and Sergei were a special couple. They won Olympic gold in 1988 and 1994. Their every move seemed perfect, their unison uncanny. Observers said they made no sound when they skated, and there is no greater compliment you can pay a skater.

At Lillehammer, their performance was mesmerizing. It lacked the power of the 1992 champions, Natalia Mishkutienok and Artur Dmitriev, but it was incredibly elegant, and their obvious adoration of each other was even more overpowering.

Seeing Gordeeva skate solo will take some getting used to _ for fans, for her fellow skaters and, yes, for her.

``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.

``For me, singles skaters have always been heroes. I admire them and how they go on the ice alone and nobody helps them and they are just out there by themselves. To see Kristi Yamaguchi do such difficult jumps alone on the ice ... I always thought about it and what it takes. I understand it now.″

Gordeeva credits Marina Zoueva, the choreographer for her and her husband, with getting her back on the ice. Zoueva, who was on the ice with the couple when Grinkov was stricken, has been a constant companion and source of strength and inspiration for Gordeeva.

When Zoueva said she could develop a singles routine for Gordeeva that would honor the life and memory of Grinkov, the skater was encouraged to move forward.

``I worked about 10 days with Marina,″ Gordeeva said. ``She is such a great choreographer that she took a great responsibility on herself to create the program.

``She told me it was very hard to create the music. I didn’t expect we could create something good. To create the program without Sergei was very unreal and unnatural. But she was so strong and able to find the words to explain and make this number happen.″

Gordeeva will not give any details about her routine, which she will perform just before intermission of a show as loaded with talent as any the sport has seen. Tour regulars Scott Hamilton, 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.

But the highlight will be Gordeeva’s solo and how she responds to being alone in the spotlight.

``Katya’s solo is extraordinary and very important to her,″ said Sandra Bezic, the choreographer for the Stars On Ice tour on which G&G were regulars. ``It is very moving and very dramatic.″

What does Gordeeva expect from herself that night, when nearly everyone in the audience certainly will be moved to tears? She stares at her hands while preparing an answer.

``This is going to be my first step,″ she said slowly, almost inaudibly, ``and I hope people will appreciate it.″

End advance for Feb. 17-18

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