Torvill and Dean dance into lead LILLEHAMMER 94

February 21, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- They are dressed in black outfits with green sequins that shine under the lights of the bright arena.

He takes her hand. She looks into his eyes. The music begins. The athletes dance.

And the crowd swoons.

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are ready to rumba at the Winter Olympics.

They turn heads and turn back time.

It could be 1984 at Sarajevo, when they were the swaying, sensual Brits, shaking the cobwebs from a sport that was strictly ballroom.

For two minutes, they are the Torvill and Dean of old.

Young again. Vivacious again. Winners again.

Last night at the Winter Olympics, they won the two-minute original program to move into first place in the ice dance.

And tonight, they will aim for a gold medal in the free dance, worth 50 percent of the overall.

"It's nice to still be here 10 years on, and be among the top group," Dean said. "Whatever happens now,just to be here, is special."

This is as compelling as ice dance gets. The British veterans are trying to fend off a challenge from a pair of Russian couples.

Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin, the 1993 world champions, are second. The rising stars and gold-medal favorites, Oksana ,, Gritschuk and Evgeni Platov, are third.

Americans Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow are entrenched in 14th.

Maybe the rumba night victory was a lifetime achievement award for Torvill and Dean, a gift from the judges who admire their spark and flash. They received two perfect scores of 6.0 in the artistry.

"Oh, it's a challenge," Torvill said.

She is 36. He is 35. They are nearly a decade older than their rivals.

They come from Nottingham, England, home to D. H. Lawrence and Robin Hood. He wanted to be a policeman. She was an insurance agent. They met nearly 15 years ago and have been skating ever since.

They set the sport's standard in 1984, skating to Bolero, sealing a gold medal with a kiss, an act that nearly scandalized the sport.

Since that gold, they have performed in professional shows around the world, earning millions.

But off the ice, their lives are separate. Torvill is married. Dean, divorced from French ice dancer Isabelle Duchesnay, now dates former American women's champion Jill Trenary.

Eight months ago, Dean decided to stage the competitive comeback, enticed by a $3 million deal from an Australian promoter.

The deal was contingent on Olympic gold.

He called Torvill and pitched the idea.

"I thought he was mad," she said. "But then, I thought about it, and . . ."

The journey from professional skating to open competition has been difficult.

They barely won the Europeans, losing the free dance but somehowsneaking through with the title based on skating's complicated scoring formula.

"We didn't think it would be this stressful," Dean said.

You want stress? When they were placed third in the opening phase ofthe competition, the British tabloids ripped their style.

The Sun of London crowed: "Torvill and Hasbean!"

"Oh, really," Dean said. "I guess they never run out of headlines."

Now, the couple is scrambling here to put together a final performance, ripping apart 80 percent of the free dance routine in the week preceding the Games.

"I hope we remember the steps," Torvill said.

"We should," Dean said. "We'll feel the mood."

Maturity has changed this couple. Torvill and Dean no longer skate with speed or passion, instead relying on the precision of their footwork and the mastery of the sport's tricks to create the illusion of intimacy and sensuality.

"We're experienced," Torvill said. "We've had more moments of passion in our lives. That comes the longer you live. For those few minutes we're out there, we're in love with each other."

"When you're on the ice, you're working that feeling," Dean said. "There has to be connection toward a passion, not a romance."

Tonight, they will perform to "Face the Music and Dance."

There are no roles to play, no barriers to break. Ten years ago, they were favorites in Sarajevo and they won. Now, they are veterans trying to reclaim four minutes of skating magic.

"We were in a position where we were expected to win in Sarajevo," Dean said. "I don't know if I could compare. There was a warmth here. They know us. We want to do well.

"Of course, we're here competing for a medal," he added. "A preference for color? Yes there is."

They are older and no longer perfect.

Torvill and Dean, together again, aiming for gold.

OLYMPICS ON SUNDIAL

To hear the latest on the Olympic medal winners, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. Call 268-7736 in Anne Arundel County, 836-5028 in Harford County, 848-0338 in Carroll County. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6116 after you hear the greeting.

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