On 14 February, it will be 30 years since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won Olympic gold in Sarajevo with their ice dance to Ravel’s Boléro, which scored the row of perfect 6.0s for artistic merit that went down in history.
That highly complex, highly emotional routine remains one of Britain’s most fondly remembered sporting highlights. Yet if Torvill and Dean were still Olympic skaters, changes in the rules mean that their Boléro routine wouldn’t make the grade today.
“Nowadays, with the rules of the competition, it’s quite a technical thing rather than a creative thing. The skaters have to include certain types of lifts, certain types of steps – none of which are contained in Boléro,” says Torvill. “So I don’t know how it would go down – we’d probably be breaking the rules.”
Even in 1984, Boléro pushed Olympic rules to the limit. The music was 18 seconds longer than was allowed – so Torvill and Dean knelt down for the beginning of their routine, knowing that the clock only started when their blades touched the ice.
“We did a lot of long lines and lyrical movements, and it was more about a passion than about being a technical exercise,” adds Dean. So in 2014, at Sochi, Boléro would, in fact, be banned? “Well, yeah, you wouldn’t get to Sochi. Because going through your national championships, then your internationals, it would get marked so low that you wouldn’t even qualify, most probably.”
It’s sad to think that skaters at the upcoming Winter Olympics won’t even try to rekindle the spirit of such an iconic routine. “Everything moves on,” says Dean equably. “But at the time, it was definitely the pinnacle. And a lot of people still hold that to be true of it as an artistic piece, a passionate and emotional piece.”
One of those people – who says, “In my heart, Torvill and Dean will always still be above everyone” – is Russian figure skater Evgeny Platov. With his partner Oksana Grishuk, Platov beat the British pair when they returned to Olympic competition at Lillehammer in 1994. And the story has a rather poetic new chapter, because Platov now coaches Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland – pictured below – the ice-dancing couple who are Team GB’s best hope of an Olympic figure-skating medal in 2014.
“Chris and I worked with Penny and Nick briefly, when we did the London 2012 torch relay two years ago. It was nice to watch them perform and meet them,” says Torvill. Coomes and Buckland won bronze at January’s European Figure Skating Championships, despite Buckland having had a heart operation only months earlier to correct his tachycardia, a condition that makes the heart beat unusually fast. Could they medal in Sochi?
“I would like to think so,” says Torvill. “But of course when you get to the Olympics, you’ve got the Canadians and the Americans, who I believe are the frontrunners at this point. Penny and Nick will have stiff competition – but I’m sure they’ll hold their own.”
Even if Coomes and Buckland (both 24) fall short of the podium in Sochi, Dean believes that the next winter Games – to be held in South Korea in 2018 – “could be their Olympics”. And to hear Dean’s plans for the future, he and Torvill could still be skating in 2018, too.
Though the current series of ITV’s Dancing on Ice is to be their last, Torvill (56) and Dean (55) have no plans to announce their retirement from the ice (having, perhaps, learnt their lesson when they “retired” in 1998 – only to return eight years later). “When people haven’t seen us for a time, maybe that’s it,” teases Dean. “But we’re not making any official announcement.”
The pair will headline a final Dancing on Ice arena tour from the end of March and, says Dean, other projects are in the pipeline. “There’s a TV project we’re interested to do,” he says, “and other live events. Ultimately, I’d like to put on a Cirque du Soleil-style show in Las Vegas, with an unlimited budget to put on a spectacular with skaters.”
But before that, there is the small matter of celebrating that 30th anniversary. On 14 February itself, they have been invited to return to Sarajevo, and perform a rendition of Boléro in the city’s Olympic Hall.
And despite the passage of time, Dean says that it will be “a similar routine” to the original, with “a lot of movements that are pretty much the same”. “There’s a lot in there,” he insists, with all the indignation of a man for whom the Olympic flame still burns bright. “I’m still doing my splits.”