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No comeback regrets for Torvill and Dean

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Eleanor Oldroyd Eleanor Oldroyd | 21:14 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

In all my years of going to interview sportspeople, I've never had a set of directions like these.

"Walk up the road and turn left at the Big Brother House. You'll see Bobby Davro's cabin on the right, and the entrance is just ahead of you."

The venue is Elstree studios, home to ITV's Dancing on Ice. The sports stars in question are the one and only pair of Torvill and Dean.

I'd gone to talk to them about their glorious career, of course, but also about the only serious blip on their otherwise stellar record.

Torvill and DeanTorvill and Dean in action at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer

The last time I came to a Winter Olympics was in 1994, when the golden couple of British ice dancing were making a big comeback. Ten years on from Bolero, they'd decided to step away from the pro circuit for a glorious return to the Olympic arena.

They'd swept all before them at the British Championships, taken the European title in Copenhagen a month before, and there was a general expectation among many in Lillehammer that they only had to turn up to be crowned Olympic champions for a second time.

It didn't quite turn out that way, though. A string of late changes to their free dance routine - to Irving Berlin's Let's Face the Music and Dance - meant it wasn't as perfect as we'd come to expect from the legends of the rink. An overhead lift at the end was ruled to be illegal, and marked down accordingly.

Naturally, their legions of fans were outraged. It had to be a conspiracy, a judging scandal. "Gold Robbery!" screamed the headlines at home.

Look at the routine on YouTube now, and the comments posted tell you there's still a sense of injustice, 16 years on.

"Cheated... stitched up... biased judges," just a few of the more repeatable remarks.

When I brought the subject up with Jayne, her slight wince made me realise the subject was still raw for her, too.

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Torvill and Dean win gold with their Bolero routine in Sarajevo in 1984

But did they regret putting their reputation on the line by coming back to Olympic competition?

"We knew we would have regretted not doing it if we hadn't," was Jayne's response. "The aim was to get another gold medal, but we had to be big enough to fail. And the fact that we didn't win was an even bigger story than if we had won."

I remember the flowers cascading down onto the Hamar rink, and Chris telling me at the time that they'd loved the fact that they'd clearly been the people's champions, if not the judges'. That was a feeling reflected on a tour they did later that year.

"I can't tell you how many little gold medals and trophies were presented to us by children who had made them in school - it was really sweet."

After the disappointments of Lillehammer, it was back to touring for Torvill and Dean, and in 1998 they said goodbye to the skating audience - for good, or so they thought.

Jayne expected that when she hung up her skates and retired to a life of full-time motherhood with her family in Sussex, she'd never take to the ice again as one half of that iconic partnership.

But then someone suggested they might try passing on their skills to a bunch of willing celebrities - and back they came, yet again. Now the success of Dancing on Ice is inspiring a new generation to skate.

Here in Vancouver, Scotland's brother-and-sister pairing - John and Sinead Kerr - are already closer than anyone in the last 16 years to the success enjoyed by Torvill and Dean.

John and Sinead KerrSuccessors to Torvill and Dean's throne? John and Sinead Kerr, GB's highly-rated Vancouver entrants

They're trained, ironically, by the male half of the couple who so controversially (or so loyalists will claim) snatched the gold in Lillehammer - Evgeny Platov.

So could they make the podium?

"For sure they'll be in the top 10," is Chris's verdict. "Will they get in the top five? They might. Will they get a medal? They might. If everything lines up, there is a chance."

It's 26 years since Bolero changed the face of ice skating for ever and, watching the routine back as I prepared for the interview, I have to confess I cried. It's still fresh and dazzlingly innovative, probably the most beautiful performance ever seen in a sporting context. (Unless you know differently, of course...)

So do Torvill and Dean, stars of one of the most popular light entertainment celeb-based talent shows currently on TV, still think of themselves as Olympians?

Suddenly, both had faraway looks in their eyes.

"It seems like a long time ago," began Jayne, as Chris added: "But when you talk about it, it feels like yesterday.

"I still remember going to the rink for the final practice session with nobody else watching, then the medal ceremony, the flowers, Princess Anne... and you think, 25 years since then - but it's still vivid."

Listen to Eleanor Oldroyd with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean in a special Winter Olympics preview show live from Vancouver as part of 5 Live Sport, on Thursday 11 February from 1900 GMT.


  • Comment number 1.

    All the comments after this may focus on _Let's Face the Music_ or _Bolero_, but for me what made their comeback special, and the heart of the performance, was their Original Dance, the _Rumba_. Sizzling sensuality, perfect choreography and timing, it's my favourite ice dance of all time even now. I hope the Kerrs take their inspiration from it, and from T&D themselves.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well said Rob K, "History of Love" won the Original Dance section in Lillehammer, and received a 6.0. It had the class and sophistication no other couple's Rumba could match. Their Paso Doble Original Set Pattern Dance is also an all time classic, and often gets overlooked when articles are written about 1984. There has never been a Paso ice dance to match it's style and choreography since. T&D still have the power to thrill. Their opening routine on Dancing on Ice last weekend was beautiful, but annoyingly the cameras kept cutting away to singer Pixie Lott.

    Good Luck to the Kerrs in Vancouver. Their main aim is to skate 3 clean routines, with no opportunity for the Judges to mark them down for technical errors, starting with the Tango Romantica Compulsory on the 19th. They have already achieved great things by winning GB's first medal in the sport since T&D, with the Bronze at Europeans last year, where they skated superbly and it was thoroughly deserved. Disgracefully, it received no mention whatsoever on Dancing on Ice, I would've thought Philip Scofield could've said a few words about our top competitve icedancers winning a medal at the European Championships at the start of the show that week, and had a round of applause and a few words of Congratulations from Jayne & Chris.

    I also send Good Luck wishes to our GB No.2 couple Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland, 2 very promising 20 year olds, and the whole GB Team.


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