Ice Skating: Torvill and Dean show their age: Winter Olympics: British ice dancers third after compulsories - Happy ending for US speed skater - Few answers to Kerrigan saga

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The Independent Online
JAYNE Torvill and Christopher Dean discovered last night just how difficult it will be to add a second Olympic title to the one they won 10 years ago. Which is, very.

In skating terms, 10 years is an age. And in the compulsory programme which opened the ice dance event, the British pair - now 35 and 36 - looked their age. They finished third behind their two youthful Russian rivals at the Hamar Amphitheatre in a discipline where, at their peak, they were always clear leaders. It constitutes their worst performance at this stage since 1980.

The tense smile on Dean's face as he stood at the end of the second of the two set routines - the Blues - spoke eloquently. Although the cheers rang round for them beforehand, and the bouquets cascaded on to the rink afterwards, he clearly knew what the score was.

Jill Trenary, the former world champion who is Dean's girlfriend, said afterwards: 'They are disappointed and down right now.' Bobby Thompson, their dance adviser, concurred. 'It was not so much what they said as what they didn't say.'

The British pair now have to win the rumba in tomorrow's original dance section in order to have a chance of the gold medal going into Monday's free dance finale. They are capable of doing that - at last month's European Championships, where they finished first after a bewildering shuffle of scores at the end of the final event, their original dance was the strongest part of their overall performance, playing as it did to their smoothness and technique.

But even if they do manage to enter the final day in contention, they will be relying upon a routine that has been exhaustively - and exhaustingly - revised in the last fortnight. It is likely to be as great a challenge as they have ever faced in their competitive careers.

Oksana Gritschuk and Yevgeny Platov of Russia, fresh and fluent and unassailably young, won the first of the night's set dances, the Starlight Waltz, but had to give best to their compatriots Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin in the second element. As 10 per cent of the overall marks were allocated for each dance, they enter tomorrow's event - which carries 30 per cent of the total marks - as joint leaders.

In Copenhagen last month, Torvill and Dean stood joint second at this stage with Gritschuk and Platov. Usova and Zhulin, the current world champions, held the lead. Given the way Gritschuk and Platov came through to sweep the free programme with their exuberant rock and roll routine, the task facing T and D now appears even steeper.

Their skating was as disciplined as usual. Thompson spoke admiringly of the marks their blades had left in the ice - 'They were literally three inches apart, almost like a compulsory figure.' But Gritschuk and Platov in particular had a greater fluency about them, and a greater speed over the ice.

Betty Callaway, their coach, did not foresee any problem in her charges winning the rumba, despite acknowledging that Dean had been nervous.

'I don't think we have to worry too much about that,' she said. 'Their rumba is far superior to the others.'

But she seemed less certain about the free programme. 'The extra elements have added to the interpretation,' she said. 'People were quite excited about it.' She didn't, however, manage to look too excited about it at that moment.

'I hope these marks will annoy them and spur them on,' Thompson said. 'I can't say I am confident of the overall result but I am confident that they will do the best possible job.

'Judging from the reception they have had since they came back to competition, the whole world will be disappointed if they don't win.

'Whatever happens, it will still be a great achievement.'

Thompson is probably right. But if T and D should be succeeded by G and P on Monday night, BBC's audience of millions is not likely to see it in those terms.

(Photograph omitted)