In her first performance in three months, figure skater Ekaterina Gordeeva glided across the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center ice Tuesday night with a fluidity and grace that undoubtedly helped her win two Olympic gold medals and four world championships.
But for all its skill and passion, Gordeeva's routine was clearly missing something, namely Sergei Grinkov, her husband and pairs partner, who died of a heart attack during a practice session in November in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Gordeeva's triumphant return to the ice for the first time since her husband's death is the emotional force behind tonight's two-hour CBS tribute, "Sergei Grinkov: Celebration of a Life," (Channel 13, 9 p.m.)
"You can see why they had all the success they had on the ice and all the success they had off the ice in their lives and what an extraordinary couple they were," said CBS skating analyst Scott Hamilton, who passed up his usual spot in the booth to skate in the event.
The highlight of the evening is a moving solo performance from Gordeeva, a tape of which was provided to television writers. Gordeeva, who is nicknamed "Katia," moves and gestures throughout the six-minute skate as though she is missing a partner in a tribute to her fallen husband.
"For Katia to do what she did, to have the inner resolve to be able to pay tribute to him was memorable. This truly was a triumph of the spirit," said Verne Lundquist, who will be host of the show with Tracy Warren.
Joining Hamilton are other skating luminaries such as Oksana Baiul, Katarina Witt, Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi and Viktor Petrenko, who along with others form pairs in a finale with riffs of routines based on performances that Gordeeva and Grinkov did. It should be a memorable moment of television.
Sure, the neighbors looked at you kind of funny when you constructed that batting cage in the back yard during the blizzard, and people ran to the other side of the street when you wandered up the sidewalk muttering about earned run averages and situational batting averages.
But you have the last demented laugh as baseball returns to our consciousness with the opening of the Orioles' exhibition season.
Mike Flanagan makes his 1996 debut as television analyst during tomorrow's game with the Florida Marlins (Channel 13, 1 p.m.). Meanwhile, the WBAL (1090 AM) team of Fred Manfra and Jon Miller returns tomorrow and for Sunday's game with the New York Mets at 1 p.m.
This weekend kicks off "Championship Week," a nine-day, 65-game feast of conference tournament and otherwise important college basketball games on ESPN and ESPN2. Tomorrow, for instance, three conferences, the Trans America Athletic, Big South and Ohio Valley, will decide their titles on ESPN starting at noon, and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game airs on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. The MEAC semifinals air this afternoon on Home Team Sports at 2 p.m. and Coppin State playing at 4:30 p.m.
The Southern Conference title game from Greensboro, N.C., is the lone ESPN title game for Sunday, to be joined in progress around 4:30 p.m., and the Missouri Valley and Sun Belt semifinals are on tap for ESPN2 starting at noon.
On the women's side, the Atlantic Coast Conference championship is decided Sunday at 1 p.m. on HTS, with the semifinals coming tomorrow live at 4:30 p.m. and on tape delay at 11 p.m. The Metro Atlantic title game airs live on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Making radio waves
Johns Hopkins lacrosse returns tomorrow to WWLG (1360 AM), as the Blue Jays play host to Princeton. Faceoff is at 2 p.m., but announcers Jody Martin and Larry Quinn field listener questions and take a look around the world of college lacrosse starting at 1 p.m.
Meanwhile, at 4 p.m. tomorrow, WWLG debuts a new weekly two-hour talk show, "Saturday Sports Special," with host Joe Plantania, former play-by-play voice of Towson State. Plantania's first guest is Sun columnist John Steadman.