Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Torvill & Dean: What really went on when the skates came off

The costumes, the flash of sequins under the lights, the hiss of steel blades on ice - how glamorous ice dancing looks to the audience.

Few people outside the world of skating fully appreciate that what they see on TV or at the rink is the culmination of years of physical and mental stress, of bodies being pushed to the limit, of determination, frustration and sheer elation.

So it was on Valentine's Day 1984 at Sarajevo Zetra ice stadium. And all because of a four-minute ice dance by a couple from Nottingham - an insurance clerk called Jayne Torvill and a policeman called Christopher Dean.

This was the Winter Olympics and 24million people had tuned in to watch the pair skate to the tune of Ravel's Bolero. Britain's hopes were pinned on them to go for gold.

They did not let us down, with the panel of nine judges awarding them top marks. So emotional was their performance that everyone assumed they were lovers - but they have always insisted they were just friends. 'It was always just acting,' says Jayne. Indeed, both are now married with their own families.

On that Valentine's Day, Torvill, then 26, and Dean, then 25, captured a moment that many still recall vividly. They were to skate around the world for many more years, becoming millionaires in the process, before announcing their retirement from a 23-year partnership in 1998.

They were reunited three years ago for ITV's Dancing On Ice. And in April they will headline a four-week tour. Next week they will also appear in an ITV documentary about their Olympic triumphs, marking the 25th anniversary of Sarajevo.

One person who has more reason than most to remember that remarkable night is another champion ice skater, Dancing On Ice judge Nicky Slater, who was an international team-mate of Torvill and Dean for several years.

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