You'd never know it from her thrilling performances on the ice,
but Ekaterina (Katia) Gordeeva once was afraid to perform in
front of people. "I was so shy," Gordeeva, 31, confesses. "I
wanted everything to be perfect and beautiful and strong." As you
might have guessed (with an assist from the pictures on these
pages), she overcame her shyness. She won two Olympic gold medals
skating for Russia with her husband and pairs partner Sergei
Grinkov, exhibiting a flair she learned from her father,
Alexander, a professional dancer. "G & G" were young, beautiful
and in love, and skating fans embraced them as though they were
the heroes of a Harlequin romance.
In 1995 Grinkov died of a heart attack, leaving Katia with their
three-year-old daughter, Daria. "Friends told me not to hide,"
she says, so three months after Grinkov's funeral, she appeared
in exhibitions as a single, and she became one of professional
skating's most popular draws. Last year she married countryman
Ilia Kulik, the 1998 men's Olympic champion and father of her
18month-old daughter, Elizaveta. When offered the chance to
appear in SI's swimsuit edition, Gordeeva reverted to her old
shyness. "Those beautiful models do this all their lives," she
says. "But I am very competitive, so I said, 'If I'm going to do
this, it should be perfect.'" No reason to worry; as always, the
judges give her high marks for artistic impression.