SI Vault
 
Love Story
Leigh Montville
December 04, 1995
The death of 28-year-old Sergei Grinkov was the final chapter in one of sport's great romances
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 04, 1995

Love Story

The death of 28-year-old Sergei Grinkov was the final chapter in one of sport's great romances

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

The "now" is what changed forever that day in Lake Placid. Sergei and Katya were practicing their routine. He had a bit of high blood pressure and had been bothered by a bad back that caused some numbness in his left leg, but otherwise he seemed in fine health. He was worried about some of the lifts that he would have to do when he and Katya went on the Discover Card Stars on Ice tour in late December. This was a chance to work on those lifts.

When Katya rushed from the rink in tears, asking for help, the other skaters thought at first that something must have happened because of Sergei's back. Maybe he had dropped Katya. Maybe he had hurt himself further. Maybe...it should have been so simple. He'd had a heart attack.

"He was blue," Wylie, one of 14 Olympians on the tour, said. "There was just nothing you could do except wait for the EMTs. I rubbed Katya's back, and with my other hand I just touched Sergei's skate. He was lifeless."

An autopsy showed that two arteries to Sergei's heart were blocked and that he'd had an earlier, undetected heart attack in the last 24 hours of his life. There was a family history of heart disease, including his father, who died in his mid-40's. Sergei basically had drawn an unlucky number from the genetic pool.

"Everyone took this so hard," Wylie said. "We'd all done this tour for a number of years. We were a family. This was where we came, Lake Placid, every year for Thanksgiving. We all just stared out at the lake."

Katya made the necessary arrangements in the middle of a holiday week in the middle of nowhere. She hosted a private wake at a funeral parlor in Saranac Lake and talked with friends and accepted condolences. Collins flew from Minnesota to Simsbury, to tell her that he would help in whatever way he could. Calls came from everywhere. Katya accompanied the body to Moscow, and on Saturday, at the ice rink that houses the Central Red Army hockey team and was the place where Sergei started skating, she sat through the funeral.

Wylie and Hamilton were there, and Bob Young, the executive director of the Simsbury rink, was there, and a lot of other people were there, ordinary and famous, Russian people who had watched the unfolding of this romance that belonged to their country and also to the world. Katya was composed throughout the service. She always had been the spokesperson for the pair, the one in charge, especially in America because Sergei was shy with his English, and she was in charge here.

And then she went to the cemetery.

And then she cried for all there was and all there might have been.

1 2 3