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Basic Instinct for the Gold, and an Oscar

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 1998; Page C8

NAGANO, Feb. 15 — Her hair is platinum bottle-blond, her idol is Sharon Stone and her new, self-selected first name is supposed to express what she calls her "passion." Pasha Grishuk wants to win an Oscar someday. She's already the star of her own soap opera.

Grishuk, the Russian ice dancer, is expected to win a second straight gold medal Monday at White Ring when she and partner Evgeny Platov skate their free dance in the third and final day of ice dancing competition. Grishuk wants that medal more than anything. Except maybe a boyfriend.

While playing with the silver-studded dog collar she wore as a part of her costume in the original dance, Grishuk tonight laid out her idea of a perfect pre-competition morning: She'd like a slew of what she called "cute guys" to line up in the athletes' village at dawn, ready for her inspection.

"I will go down the line and put the cute ones on the right and the other ones on the other side," she said.

Then she paused and added this addendum:

"But only gold medalists, please."

And in case Ilia Kulik — who brought Russia the gold in men's figure skating on Saturday — is too busy to line up Monday morning, Platov had a suggestion.

"Call 1-800-Pasha," he said. Grishuk simply smiled her movie star smile and laughed.

It's always a dangerous thing to talk about Grishuk and boyfriends. Among other things, boyfriend-related issues have gotten Grishuk: a) smacked head-first into the bar at Spago in Los Angeles by another female ice dancer; b) slapped across the face by another female skater, and c) kicked out of the Russian ice dancing camp by her old coach.

A and C happened when she embarked on an affair with former Russian ice dancer Alexander Zhulin, who just happened to be married to his partner, Maia Usova, at the time. B, according to Grishuk, happened when U.S. skater Nicole Bobek became distraught over a relationship Grishuk had with her boyfriend (Bobek denies slapping Grishuk).

"Usova hit me," Grishuk said of the incident that took place in the famous Los Angeles eatery in 1992, just after Usova and Zhulin edged out Grishuk and Platov for the bronze medal in Albertville. "I could have sued her but I didn't. People like her are jealous. I am a pretty woman. I have the whole world in front of me."

All this, and Grishuk recently changed her first name from Oksana to Pasha because, she explained, she is tired of being mistaken for the woman she calls "the bad Oksana, the criminal Oksana," — 1994 Olympic gold medal figure skater Oksana Baiul, another platinum blond. Baiul, who Grishuk has referred to as "fat" and "washed up," was arrested on drunk driving charges in January 1997.

"Almost everyone calls me Pasha now," said Grishuk, who instituted the name change in September and had to hound Platov to remember. "Someone called me Oksana the other day, and I had to correct him."

Grishuk was happy to discuss the name change — and pretty much any topic — after this evening's original dance competition, which she and Platov skated brilliantly.

The duo are favored heavily to win the gold and are trailed in second place by fellow Russians Oleg Ovsiannikov and Anjelika Krylova — who just happens to be Grishuk's nemesis of the moment. At the European championships last winter, Krylova and Grishuk were playing an on-ice version of "chicken" — skating ever closer to each other without looking — until Krylova sliced Grishuk on the arm with her skate.

As unpopular as she can be with her fellow skaters, though, Grishuk is a favorite of the crowd — and of the judges. She and Platov, who plan to turn professional after the Olympics, and their programs are considered to be a class above the rest of the ice dancing field.

They also happen to be the most controversial. In a sport where the rules are better defined by what dancers can't do, rather than what they can, Grishuk and Platov like to push the envelope. Their lifts are sometimes a little higher than is perhaps allowed. They separate on the ice for more than the five seconds allowed.

"I think we have done something to take ice dancing to a new level, and we are always trying to make it more exciting and more popular," Grishuk said. "That is what we want to be remembered for."

In that same mode, Grishuk promised that Monday night's free program would be innovative and exciting and that she would provide everyone with "a surprise." Grishuk's costume alone is always something that draws serious attention. In this sport, which actually has a rule that states "the lady must wear a skirt," Grishuk showed up for the free program in Lillehammer dressed in a postage-stamp sized halter top and a miniskirt slit to the top of her thigh.

Tonight, Grishuk wore a black-and-silver number that included chains and studs and the dog collar. And in the first 10 seconds of their program, Platov leaned over and unzipped the zipper that was holding her miniskirt together (the move is choreographed into their program) to give her a long slit. She also wore purple skates to match her eyeshadow.

"I want to win a medal and I want to win an Oscar," she said tonight, after taking off a full length fur coat. "I think I can do both."

Who's to doubt?

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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