Torvill, Jayne (1957—)

views updated

Torvill, Jayne (1957—)

British figure skater. Born in Nottingham, England, on October 7, 1957; daughter of a bicycle repairer.

With Michael Hutchinson, won British Pairs championship (1971); with Christopher Dean, won British Northern Ice Dance championship (1976),

British Ice Dance championships (1978–84), gold medals in European championships (1981, 1982, 1984, 1993) and World championships (1981, 1982, 1984), gold in World championship (1983); won Olympic gold medal in Sarajevo (1984), won the Olympic bronze medal in Lillehammer (1994).

She's the quiet one; he's emotionally explosive. He's the perfectionist; so is she. Together, they changed the world of ice dancing. Jayne Torvill, daughter of a bicycle repairer, and Christopher Dean, son of a coal-mining electrician, were first teamed on the ice in 1975. By 1980, with the help of a grant for training expenses from the Nottingham City Council, they quit their jobs and decided to "give it a go," to become the "best in the world." They finished 5th at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

On February 14, 1984, at the Sarajevo Olympics, they skated a slow, sensual, haunting dance to Maurice Ravel's sultry "Bolero" in blue flowing costumes. That night they were the first to use one piece of music through their entire free dance program, the first to create and sustain a mood, the first to start on their knees and end on their elbows. Said commentator Dick Button: "The world has expected everything from them and they have given it back." For artistic impression, the scores flashed across the board: 6.0, 6.0, 6.0, 6.0, 6.0, 6.0, 6.0, 6.0, 6.0. Three more 6.0s followed for technical merit. They had registered the highest scores ever recorded in an international ice dancing competition. Through the compulsories, which make up 30% of the scoring, the original set pattern, which makes up 20%, and the free skating (50%), they were awarded 19 perfect 6.0s. The previous best had been won by the same Torvill and Dean at the European championships that year. "They took ice dancing out of the ballroom," wrote Newsweek, "and skated it deliciously close to the back seat of a parked car."

T&D, as they are known in Britain, rehearsed to a fare-thee-well. Every detail was gone over thousands of times, but things still could go wrong. During the 1982 Nationals, for example, they had never skated in the costumes they were wearing, although the routine had been rehearsed over and over. "When we caught hands in the rock and roll routine," says Torvill, "my dress bobbed up in the air and Chris took both my hand and the dress. I knew that if he tried to release it, it would fall down, but in keeping hold, he might have ripped the dress." They had a split second where they just stared at each other in horror. "In the end he held on to everything and the dress slipped away, rather than tore."

The couple turned pro in 1985 and that should have been the end of their Olympic entries. But the world of ice dancing changed in the late 1980s: the ban on professionals was dropped by the International Skating Union. So they came back to Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994, the oldest skaters competing, and tried once again. After skating à la Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire to "Let's Face the Music and Dance," they were given a standing ovation. They'd "done everything by the book, just as they'd been told to do," wrote John Powers for the Boston Globe. "They worked up a ballroom dance and put it on ice. The crowd went wild. And the judges gave the Olympic title to a couple of Russian rock 'n' Rollers." Though the judges chose to hand the gold medals to Maia Usova and Aleksandr Zhulin and the silver to Oksana Gritschuk and Evgeni Platov, they could not take away from those who had watched Torvill and Dean skate their second gold-medal performance. In 1981, Queen Elizabeth II awarded T&D with the distinction of Members of the British Empire (MBE); in 2000, they were named Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).


Hemery, David. The Pursuit of Sporting Excellence. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1986.

Newsweek. February 21, 1994, p. 47.

Powers, John. "Torvill & Dean Face Music …," in Boston Globe. February 22, 1994, p. 22.