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Grishuk, Platov Repeat as Olympic Champions

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 17, 1998; Page C6

 Russians Pasha Grishuk and Yevgeny Platov won the gold medal after their free dance program Monday. (Doug Mills/AP)
NAGANO, Feb. 16 — Russians Pasha Grishuk and Evgeny Platov tacked a second straight Olympic gold ice dancing medal onto a string of four world championship victories at White Ring ice rink tonight. They have not lost a competition since before the 1994 Olympics, but they endured a season marred by three falls by Platov in three separate competitions — all of which they won, anyway.

Tonight's results, though not surprising, could make this Olympic dance event best known for the questions it generated.

Will the gold medalists Grishuk and Platov be remembered as one of the best dance teams in history or the pair that stumbled repeatedly in competitions leading up to this Olympic gold? Will the fourth-place team, Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, be remembered for whining for getting cheated? Will the silver medalists, Russians Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov, or the bronze medalists, France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, be remembered at all?

In Friday night's waltz, Grishuk misstepped in front of the judges, yet she and Platov still received the night's best marks from a nine-judge panel that included five from former Eastern Bloc nations. On Sunday the International Skating Union announced that dance judges were advised during these Olympics to adhere to stricter guidelines with regard to falls during the original and free dances.

But in ice dancing, there is an unspoken tradition of allowing more mistakes by the current champion — evidenced by the Platov's and Grishuk's victories this season despite their falls. They went into tonight's competition in first place and there they remained.

Other than a stumble by Grishuk in one of the compulsories, Grishuk and Platov made no major mistakes. Grishuk said she and her partner felt immense pressure not to repeat the errors made previously, and that was why she began sobbing at the conclusion of the free dance tonight. The pair's success in these Games, however, failed to direct the focus from earlier in the season, even as they doubled the number of Olympic gold medals won by the most famous dance team in history, Great Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Torvill and Dean won only the 1984 Olympic gold.

"All of us remember how Torvill and Dean improved our sport," said Natalia Dubova, the coach of the fourth-place Canadian team. "I always ask myself what Grishuk and Platov do for me. They don't bring the sport up."

The Canadians, Bourne and Kraatz, leave here with nothing to show for their performance, other than the satisfaction of tonight's crowd-pleasing "Riverdance" program, which lead Riverdance dancer Colin Dunn helped develop. They finished third in the free dance, but it wasn't enough to lift them out of fourth overall.

Calling themselves advocates of reform for judging in ice dancing, Bourne and Kraatz have explained in detail in recent days how thoroughly they have been mistreated by the Olympic judging panel.

"I don't feel awful at all," Bourne said. "In fact, I feel like laughing. It's more of a joke than anything. You just look at it, laugh at it, and get past it. We skated so well, it's stupid, isn't it?"

Said Kraatz: "I really think it's sad that we have to be the only spokespersons for this. There are tons of other skaters that the same thing is happening to. ... They're just too chicken to speak up."

Krylova and Ovsyannikov — the silver medalists — weren't too chicken to speak up. Their choreography to "Carmen" was modern and innovative and, like "Riverdance," well received tonight.

"All I can say is, the public likes us better" than Grishuk and Platov, Krylova said. "I think we had a better program overall."

Grishuk and Platov seemed uninterested in the contentiousness. They were simply relieved to have skated to their own standards.

"It was extremely difficult for us to perform at this Olympics," Grishuk said.

"There was a lot of stress and a lot of pressure, not from the competition, but a lot of pressure from us. We knew we had a couple of falls earlier in the season just because our program is so difficult. ... We were very proud we could handle it. We were very strong."

And, as expected, they remained Olympic champions.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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