Monday, February 21, 2000

Gordeeva skating more smoothly through life

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When you meet Ekaterina Gordeeva, world-renowned pairs and solo figure skater, it is hard to imagine that this quiet, 5-foot-2-inch woman is a powerhouse on ice.

        Her accomplishments read like a superhuman bio.

        Paired with her late husband, Sergei Grinkov, when she was 11 and he was 15 in 1982, the pair earned multiple world championship titles and two Olympic gold medals, in 1988 and 1994. They married in 1991 and had a child, Daria, now 7 years old. They built their life together in the United States.

        In 1995, “Katia” was forced to deal with Sergei's death from a heart attack. She published a memoir, My Sergei: A Love Story (Warner Books; $6.50 paperback) and began her solo career with the piece A Celebration of Life, a tribute to Sergei.

        For the past seven years, she has performed with Stars on Ice, a 63-city exhibition tour with 13 other giants of the skating world. The tour will stop at the Firstar Center on Wednesday.

        We caught up with Ms. Gordeeva, 28, earlier this month at Ockerman Elementary School in Florence, where she participated in an education seminar. She talked about the show, her accomplishments and rumors of romance.

        Question: You won the junior world championships with Sergei in 1984. You were barely a teen-ager. What was it like to be so young and suddenly a champion?

        Answer: I don't remember that much about the competition itself. It was my first time in the United States when we won the junior championships, and it was Christmas time. I was more excited about exploring and sightseeing and exchanging gifts with my friends than I was about the competition! It was like, OK, finish skating so we can go have fun with our friends!

        Q: Do you like the United States?

        A: Yes, I am getting used to it here. I live in Connecticut with my daughter, Daria, and I like it. I miss Moscow, but my family is here, so it's nice.

        Q: What about American food?

        A: Hmmm. I like cereal a lot! Does that count? And I love sushi, but that's not American. I like home-cooked food very much, and I love cooking when I go home.

        Q: Stars on Ice puts you on the road for four months. Do you get homesick?

        A: Yes, but I fly back to Connecticut often, and when Daria has time off of first grade, she comes to visit me wherever I'm performing.

        Q: Can we look forward to seeing Daria's name on future figure skating rosters?

        A: She skates a little, but she takes rhythmic gymnastic lessons. And she plays tennis, too, which she likes.

        Q: Do you tire of traveling?

        A: Yes, sometimes. But we fly on a private jet and stay in very nice hotels, so we are comfortable.

        Q: What do you do to pass the time while you're in the air?

        A: We all watch movies, I read books, and I love to needlepoint. And we talk together, but sometimes we are together a little too much.

        Q: Are the other skaters a pseudo family when you're touring?

        A: Yes, this is a wonderful group of people, and it's fun to get to know the newer skaters, like Lu Chen and Steven Cousins. And Scott Hamilton is very much like an older brother. We all know each other very well, and he is like a big brother to everyone.

        Q: Rumor has it, you've been getting to know Ilia Kulik a bit better, too.

        A: Yes, we have been dating now for a while. I didn't know him at all until last year when he joined the tour. I knew who he was and that he was from Moscow, but he didn't talk much. He seemed very quiet.

        Q: Ilia is frequently compared to Leonardo DiCaprio. Young girls go wild when he steps on the ice. Do you see the similarities?

        A: Not so much really. I suppose if you see him on the ice as he is skating by he can look quite similar to Leonardo, but he looks like Ilia to me.

        Q: You two perform a program together in the show to a song by Ricky Martin. What kind of music do you prefer to skate to?

        A: Really, I'll skate to any music. I'm willing to try any style on the ice, but I don't really like country music so much.

        Q: What has been your proudest moment thus far in your career?

        A: Winning the gold medal with Sergei at both Olympics, especially the first, was very exciting. And I was very proud to do A Celebration of a Life, in 1996 for TV in honor of my husband. It was very emotional but very memorable.

        Q: What would you be doing if you weren't a skater?

        A: I would surely be a dancer. My father was a dancer and I would have followed him. I'm just so lucky to have figure skating, where I can combine dancing and skating, the two things that I love.

        If you go

        • What: Target Stars on Ice with Ekaterina Gordeeva, Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, Ilia Kulik, Kurt Browning and more.

        • When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.23

        • Where: Firstar Center.

        • Tickets: $32, $42, $55 at Firstar box office, Ticketmaster outlets or call 562-4949.


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