Torvill, Dean Win Crowd, Lose Judges
By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 22, 1994; Page C5
HAMAR, Norway, Feb. 21 It's not a Winter Olympic Games if a figure skater or two doesn't feel robbed, but, tonight at the Olympic Amphitheatre, many in the crowd here firmly believed that the judges outdid themselves.
The judges took a long look at the two most beloved ice dancers in history, the people who put this discipline on the map, and awarded them a bronze medal.
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, the sensual 1984 Olympic gold medalists who now are 36 and 35, respectively, left the professional ranks, boned up on ballroom dancing, and returned for one more run at a gold medal in these Games.
On Sunday night, after taking the lead halfway through the competition, it looked as if they had it. When they pretended they were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the free dance, happily performing to "Let's Face the Music and Dance," they thought they had it. When the crowd of 6,000 stood and roared its approval, there was little doubt in this arena that they had it.
And then the judges' marks popped up, with one as low as 5.6 and most hovering around 5.7 and 5.8, and they realized, much to their surprise, that they did not have it.
For the third time in three figure skating events here, the Russians won. Oksana Gritschuk and Evgeny Platov, the 1993 world championship silver medalists, received the gold medal with a rock-and-roll and blues program that they said was "fresh, young and talented."
The silver medalists also are Russian: Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin, the world gold medalists and 1992 Olympic bronze medalists. Theirs was a playful, boy-meets-girl routine to music from Fellini's "La Strada."
Both received higher marks than the British legends, to the disgust of many of the spectators, some of whom booed and whistled not only Torvill and Dean's relatively low marks, but the gold medalists' high ones, mostly 5.8s and 5.9s.
When asked about the judges' scores, Dean replied, "Maybe you should get the panel of judges and ask them. We have no idea. We were a little surprised. ... A lot."
Torvill and Dean said they were dumbfounded by the judges' reaction to their ballroom number, which couldn't have been further removed from their unforgettable performance to Ravel's "Bolero" in Sarajevo in 1984.
In fact, because of sultry performances like Torvill and Dean's and other Olympic winners in 1988 and 1992, officials changed the rules of the sport to get away from that, saying the free dance must have a rhythmic beat and a melody. It also had to have moves like those you'd see on a dance floor.
But that wasn't entirely Torvill and Dean's problem. One competitor thought they might have recycled some of their old moves rather than come up with original maneuvers, which is the rule.
"Chris and Jayne were very smooth and conservative and used a lot of old tricks," said Jerod Swallow, a U.S. ice dancer. "It was stuff from 10 years ago. They should have left it there. But I still thought they would be second."
Swallow and his partner and wife, Elizabeth Punsalan, had a tough night. Falling is rare in ice dancing, but the pair came crashing down on a lift during their program, which was a series of dances to different parts of the "Mambo Kings."
Punsalan suffered a bruised elbow and a sore tailbone; Swallow skinned his forearm. The fall was more injury than insult, however; they came into the evening 14th, and dropped only one place to 15th.
"It was really the first poor competition we've had all year," Swallow said. "Falls like that happen so quick that you really don't know how it happened. ... We're a little disappointed in ourselves, but it's very small in the scheme of life."
Punsalan's father was murdered Feb. 4 in her family's home outside Cleveland. Her brother is being held in the stabbing death.
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