Torvill and Dean’s stunning routine remains perfection on ice, 40 years on

By Sports Desk February 13, 2024 325

Forty years of salchows and sequins have failed to diminish the memory of the most seminal moment in figure skating history.

Olympic medals have been won and lost, oceans of tears have been shed in the ‘kiss-and-cries’, quads have been celebrated, kneecaps have been clubbed, strawberry desserts have been allegedly ingested.

But Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s performance to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics remains the byword for skating beauty, the perfect moment that, for all the sport’s enduring majesty and penchant for controversy, remains unsurpassed.

The pair are in their late sixties now but they remain synonymous by their surnames, and their influence on the sport and its subsequent generations, increasingly due to their association with ITV’s ‘Dancing on Ice’ is as indelible as ever.

‘Bolero’ is still routinely used for Olympic programmes, mostly recently in Beijing in 2022 by 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, who wiped the mousse from her mouth and became the first female skater to land a quad jump to its creaking restrain.

But Ravel’s 1928 orchestral composition will always belong to Torvill and Dean, its opening bars instantly sweeping those of us of a certain age back to the night when we were one among 24 million others sat in front of our television sets to witness sporting history.

Dozens of British ice dancers have been both inspired and burdened by Torvill and Dean’s unrepeatable achievement. For the Kerr siblings, John and Sinead, two European bronze medals was enough to spark comparisons with their illustrious predecessors.

Speaking prior to their second Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, where they would finish a creditable but scarcely comparable eighth, John Kerr felt the need to remind an interviewer: “We are not the new Torvill and Dean and we never have been. We are ourselves.”

It has been a proven a more fruitful relationship for the current British number ones, Lewis Gibson and Lilah Fear, whose two European silver medals and current world ranking of two make them the most successful British ice dance pairing since the halcyon days of the 1980s.

Gibson was born in 1994, a full decade after that avalanche of uninterrupted sixes, so it is not the memory of that string of perfect sixes that inspired him to take up the sport, but rather Torvill and Dean’s professional after-life on ITV.

“I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t create (that),” Gibson told Olympics.com in 2022. “I remember watching that first episode and my mum shared with me where she was when she watched them (in 1984), so it came full circle.”

“They created the legacy of ice dance in Britain, they pushed the limits of the sport and did all these new things, and the pride we have for ice dance in Britain comes from them,” said Fear.

To mark the 30th anniversary of their famous moment in 2014, Torvill and Dean returned to the scene of their greatest moment for the first time, performing their routine in front of 5,000 spectators in an arena that had been ruined then rebuilt after the Bosnian war.

“I have thought back so often to that night and the thing I still remember more than anything is kneeling down to start the routine, and the way the crowd went silent,” said Torvill, as she prepared to reprise their routine inside the Zetra Ice Hall.

Forty years on, theirs is a legacy that shows no signs of defrosting.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 14 February 2024 07:16
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