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The Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., was steeped in nostalgia on the evening of December 30, when Ekaterina Gordeeva hosted “From the Heart,” a memorial show to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of her first husband, Sergei Grinkov.
Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Paul Wylie and Yuka Sato, Ilia Kulik, David Pelletier, Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Patrick Chan headlined the gala evening.
Canadian pairs skaters Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch, 2015 U.S. junior champion Andrew Torgashev, Russian ice dancers Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Israel’s Daniel Samohin rounded out the cast.
Gordeeva’s elder daughter, Daria Grinkova, and Hamilton emceed the show. Both related anecdotes throughout the evening, recalling some of their fondest memories of Grinkov.
“He was an amazing guy, and when I look back on our times together, what I remember is how big he was, how strong he was, a full head of hair. I envied everything about him,” Hamilton said with humor. “But it was the way that his face would so easily break into a smile; that’s my greatest memory of Sergei.
“So many spectacular things have happened on this ice, and so many moving and wonderful things have happened in this space,” Hamilton told the audience. “It just feels so great. So many people came here to be a part of this tonight. There were some who couldn’t be here, but they all sent messages.”
Viktor Petrenko was among those who provided a moving tribute. “Twenty years have passed without Sergei in our lives,” he wrote. “I still remember the fun times we had and the memories we shared when we traveled to many camps and competitions and on the Champions on Ice tour.
“He was one of the most talented skaters I’ve had the privilege to skate with, and watching him and Katia perform on the ice made me appreciate the sport even more because of the grace and beauty they performed with every time they skated.
“Even though Sergei is no longer with us, he still lives with us through Katia and Dasha. Every time I look at Dasha, I see Sergei, and I know he would be so proud to see the beautiful young woman she has become.”
Grinkova and Hamilton proposed a toast in Grinkov’s honor. “There’s an old Russian proverb that says, ‘You’ll live as long as you’re remembered,’” Hamilton said. “I think we’re proving that tonight … as we close our eyes, just for a moment, and remember our dear friend as we say, together: ‘To Sergei.’”
Gordeeva performed two solo programs: the first to Ellie Goulding’s “Beating Heart” and the second to Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream.” She also performed a pairs routine with Pelletier to “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran. “It’s a number about the memories — that photographs keep the memories and give the good memories,” Gordeeva explained.
Yamaguchi, who rarely performs anymore, captivated the audience with her routine to Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic.”
“When you hear their names, you think of the word ‘perfection,’” she said. “But they really were as one as a pairs team, and I think the connection they had on and off the ice came through in their skating. Technically, and also emotionally, they were so incredible. The love story was epic, really.”
Hamilton, who performed a short number with his son Maxx, described Gordeeva and Grinkov in three words: “excellence, beauty, romance. They set the bar so high for every pairs team that skated after them,” he said.
Wylie skated to Glenn Frey’s version of “Here’s to Life,” a song that had a special meaning for him, as well. He also suffered a heart attack last year and spent months in recovery.
At the end of the show, Elizaveta Kulik, Gordeeva’s younger daughter, took to the ice for a solo performance. “Her technique and her artistry are a perfect combination of both her talented parents,” Grinkova said in introducing her sister. “She is the little girl who stole my heart.”
Elizaveta performed a routine to an instrumental version of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” immediately followed by the finale set to the original vocal version.
“They came to skate for you and for themselves,” Gordeeva told the crowd from center ice. “They are here for each other, for me, for Sergei, for the past and for the future. They did not ask for anything; they came simply to be together, and I thank them for that.”
Grinkova joined the cast for the final bow and presented roses to each skater, who in turn handed them to members of the audience. “I feel very close to him right now,” she told the audience. “I know he is special to each of us. To me, he is the big beautiful man who carried me everywhere on his shoulders. He would hold me in his arms between his legs and glide around this rink, with my belly within inches of this icy surface.
“I can tell what you’re all thinking right now. I know: I look exactly like him. We talk alike, we eat alike, and apparently we even sleep alike. Not that I would want to, but I cannot escape him. He is always with me. It makes me so incredibly happy to share his love for me. I would not have missed this opportunity for the world. It is something that I will always treasure and never forget. Thank you all for this evening. I think this is exactly how my dad would have wanted it to be.”