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 18-month-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.
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