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Torvill and Dean's Glory Days

5th February 2019

If you visit Palace House this winter you will see our new skating exhibition which explores how artists and photographers have depicted the nation’s love of speed and figure ice skating across the centuries. Two of Britain’s most famous skaters, Torvill and Dean feature in one of the many photographs on the second floor of Palace House until 28th April.

Inspired by our success in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and our skating exhibition, this week’s blog by Charley Murfitt takes a look back at Torvill and Dean’s Glory Days on the ice including their iconic gold medal winning performance at the 14th Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. torvill-and-dean

Thirty five years after Torvill and Dean won gold they’re still prevalent figures in the public eye. With the return of ‘Dancing on Ice’, the ITV special ‘Torvill and Dean’, aired last Christmas, and competitions such as the European and World Championships round the corner, the UK is looking back at Torvill and Dean’s Glory Days in the 1980s.

Torvill and Dean are seen as our bragging rights to Winter Olympic prowess and revived the UK’s love for winter sport; after the success of people like Cecilia Colledge, John Curry, and Robin Cousins, Torvill and Dean reminded the UK that not every British Winter Olympian is like Eddie the Eagle.

For anyone who isn’t aware of these national treasures, Torvill and Dean are British figure skaters and British, European, Olympic and World champions. At the 1984 Winter Olympics Torvill and Dean won gold and became the highest scoring figure skaters of all time receiving twelve perfect 6.0s and six 5.9s, after skating to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. This included artistic impression scores of 6.0 from every judge; their performance was watched by a British television audience of a staggering 24 million people, the tenth most viewed event in British history.

What many people don’t know is that Olympic skating rules state that a routine has to be four minutes +/- ten seconds; however, Bolero could only be shortened to 4 mins 28 seconds. A loophole in the Olympic rule book stating that a routine begins when the skaters start skating with the blades of their skates on the ice resulted in the pair creating the iconic start to Bolero by kneeling on the ice without the blades of their skates touching the ice for the first 18 seconds of the routine.

Since this historic moment, the duo have been under the microscope and adored by the British public. Over the years, there’s been speculation over their romantic involvement. Many years later Torvill admitted they dabbled with romance sharing a quick kiss in their teens on the way to a league match but said that any serious relationship would have damaged their skating careers.  In the end they decided not to let romance get in the way of their professional relationship. This can be seen in the ITV special aptly named ‘Torvill and Dean’.

A relaxation of rules governing who was able to compete meant that the couple returned to amateur status in 1994, winning the European Championships in Copenhagen, before taking bronze at the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Torvill and Dean retired after a 23-year partnership in 1998, but were reunited for the ITV show ‘Dancing on Ice’ which ran for nine series between 2006 and 2014 and has made a comeback this year.

I think we can all agree that Torvill and Dean have left a lasting impression on this country and will continue to do so for many years to come. They may have faded from the limelight but the legacy they have left will continue to inspire many other young Olympians.

Blog by Charley Murfitt, Community Engagement Trainee

Photo courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery