Ice Skating: Torvill and Dean plan ballroom blitz: Change is in the air for the golden partners as they tune up for Winter Olympics. Mike Rowbottom reports

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The Independent Online
JAYNE TORVILL and Christopher Dean, revealed as European ice dance champions in an emotionally fraught finale that was straight out of the Eurovision Song Contest, could only acknowledge yesterday the indirect help they had received and lay plans for the Olympic task that lies before them.

The fact that they were shifted from the silver to the gold medal position purely by the efforts of the Russian pair Oksana Gritschuk and Evgeny Platov, whose inspired late impact in the free programme convulsed the scoring system, made it a case of victory rather than triumph for the British pair.

After what Torvill described as the hardest competition of their career, the question that faces them is what, if anything, they need to reconsider before next month's Games in Lillehammer, where they will seek to add a second Olympic title to the one they won 10 years ago.

'It won't be difficult to make changes,' Torvill said. 'The difficulty is to know what to change, or how much to change.' There, as a celebrated Dane once said, is the rub.

Before deciding to return to competition skating after 10 years as professionals, Torvill and Dean took careful note of the new international rulings on ice dance, which banned histrionic excesses and acrobatics. Accordingly, they put together a highly technical and accomplished programme which they performed almost without fault. But it was not enough in itself to earn them the title.

Having created a routine as smooth and solid as a Bentley, you sense that they are loath to start adding gaudy spoilers to the back bumper. And yet they gave clear hints that their offering in Lillehammer will not be strictly ballroom.

'The programme never stops evolving,' Dean said. 'Between here and the Olympics it will change again. What we did here was very technical, bordering on conservative. But we would have been criticised if we had come back with a showy programme. There was nothing there that was in any way a gimmick.'

However, it seems gimmicks have not been ruled out in future. 'The old trick thing does get applause,' Dean added.

Their performance is not the only factor which is likely to change at the Olympics, of course. In Lillehammer, there will be a new panel of judges who will be joined by representatives from Canada and the United States. New faces, new interpretations. Judging an ice dance routine appears as tricky as mounting an Olympic bid.

What makes the situation all the more finely balanced is the fact that the competition in Lillehammer is likely to be so close. Dean described Friday's competition as one of the best in ice dance for years.

In the aftermath of victory, Torvill and Dean appeared to be as puzzled as many other observers about a scoring system that allowed them to win even though no judge put them first in the final free dance programme.

While Gritschuk and Platov took seven of the nine judges' votes on the night, they had too much ground to make up overall after going into the final section in third place. Two judges still favoured the Russian world champions, Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin, but they gained only five votes of second place or better, and Torvill and Dean were placed above them on the basis of receiving six. Asked if he did not think many people watching would have been confused by what had gone on, Dean responded with a grin: 'Join the club.'

Katarina Witt, who was reduced to tears by her performance in Friday's technical programme, recovered her composure yesterday to banish any doubts about her qualification for next month's Olympics.

The Olympic champion of 1984 and 1988 produced a performance in the free programme which evoked real enthusiasm - plus seven bouquets and a cuddly pelican - from the audience. The judges, noting mistakes on a triple salchow and a triple toe loop, were not carried away, but Witt finished in eighth place, comfortably ahead of her compatriot, Marina Kielmann, to ensure a trip to Lillehammer as the second-placed German. Surya Bonaly, of France, took the title ahead of Oksana Baiul, of the Ukraine, and Olga Markova, of Russia, with a technically assured performance.

(Photograph omitted)