CALGARY, FEB. 16 -- That little thing Sergei Grinkov throws around like a badly used doll has a name -- Ekaterina Gordeeva.
Together, the two strangely paired youths from Moscow had all the required elements to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating, and all of the charm and expression to make them long-lived international stars.
Gordeeva and Grinkov's victory in the pairs event Tuesday night at the Saddledome didn't just establish them as the team to watch for say, the next decade. It also made them the first darlings of the Olympics, with an East-West crossover appeal that has been likened to that of Soviet Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut, and which has drawn wild applause.
Gordeeva, 16, has a blue-eyed, dimpled face to break hearts and a spritely little 4-11, 90-pound body that does the most astonishing things. Grinkov is a strapping 21-year-old with a liking for hockey.
Their mismatched presence together has an ethereal quality that garnered a standing ovation from the Western audience at the Saddledome. In two sets of marks from the nine judges, they got a total of 14 5.9s out of a possible 6.0.
"They skated perfectly," said their coach, Stanislav Leonovich. "They were admired by the judges, and by the audience. I admired them myself."
Already two-time world champions -- they won their first when she was just 14 -- it is conceivable Gordeeva and Grinkov could compete in three more Olympic games. Their rise through the ranks was virtually instant; their first world title in 1985 came in their novice season of senior competition. It also is conceivable that Gordeeva could continue long after with another partner when Grinkov gets too old to compete. But she says: "I won't have another partner."
She is probably the greater star of the two, with a giggly persona and a dancerlike quality that she both inherited and learned at the Bolshoi School. Her father is a dancer with the Red Army song and dance folk group, and her mother is a Tass teletype operator.
Tass has affectionately named her "a daughter of the regiment." She likes collecting toys, embroidery and going to the ballet, but mostly she likes skating.
"I like to compete," she said. "I like the spectators. I can't imagine a life without figure skating."
He is bookish, amiable and likes hockey. Hers is the stronger personality, but he gives the directions on the ice and has a habit of doting on her.
"He takes care of her," said Tass sports reporter Viaschlav Troushkov, who has covered their rise. "When she wants something, he gets it for her."
That affection took time. Gordeeva and Grinkov at first objected to being paired together when their federation decreed that they would skate as partners six years ago. Both wanted to remain in singles. But their size difference made them a startling duet. With his strength and her size, unprecedented moves became possible, such as their signature quadruple throw, in which he hurls her through the air and she spins four times.
Lately she has gotten too big for that. But they are working on innovations.
"That is a secret," Leonovich said. "We have in our bag a lot of difficult moves that we will show later."