STAFF BOOK PICK: My Sergei: A Love Story by Edward McKelvy Swift and Ekaterina Gordeeva
August 2023

As an avid reader obsessed with my Kindle, I never reach for non-fiction books. When I moved into my office in June, I stumbled upon My Sergei: A Love Story by Edward McKelvy Swift and Ekaterina Gordeeva. This began my new months-long hyperfixation. If you paid attention to the Winter Olympics, figure skating, or sports in general during the late 80s and early 90s then you probably have heard of this iconic duo.

My Sergei is an autobiography detailing Ekaterina Gordeeva’s tragically beautiful love story with her Pairs Figure Skating partner and soulmate, Sergei Grinkov. Both were born in Moscow during the Soviet era and trained at the Children and Youth Sports School of CSKA (also known as the Central Red Army Club). In 1981, Ekaterina (Katia) was 11 years old when she partnered with Sergei 15, and they affectionately were nicknamed G&G because of their last names. They trained under elite coaches and the pair won the 1985 World Junior Championship and then the following year won the first of their four World Figure Skating Championships. Their Olympic legacy began in 1988 at the Calgary Winter Games where they won their first gold medal representing the Soviet Union. At just 16 and 21 years old, they still remain the youngest Pairs Team to win gold at an Olympics.

As hinted in the book’s title, Katia and Sergei’s relationship evolved from childhood friends to lovers. They married in April 1991 and welcomed their daughter in September 1992. With this lifestyle change, uncertainties about their skating career arose. Through dedication and teamwork, they won the World Professional Championships in 1991, 1992, and 1994 and toured with Stars on Ice. Their goal of competing in another Winter Olympics came true at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. This time representing Team Russia, they won their second gold medal. Katia reminisced saying, “The first gold medal we had won for the Soviet Union. This one we won for each other.”

January 1995, would mark G&G’s last competition. At the Challenge of Champions in Tokyo, they earned four perfect 10s in their artistic mark and won gold. That autumn, they appeared in an exhibition called Skates of Gold III in Albany, which would ultimately be their final public performance together. Katia and Sergei were in Lake Placid training for their fourth season of Stars on Ice with their friends and colleagues when on November 20, 1995, while practicing their routine, Sergei suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack while on the ice. He was only 28 years old. Doctors found that Sergei had severely clogged coronary arteries, which caused the heart attack and later testing revealed that he also had a genetic risk factor linked with premature heart attacks. Katia was 24 years old and their daughter was only 3.

To honor Sergei, Katia, along with an all-star cast, performed a tribute in his honor titled “Celebration of a Life” in February 1996. This was Katia’s debut performance as a solo skater. She preserved Sergei’s legacy with this book, which was later turned into a television movie/docudrama titled “My Sergei” that can be watched online.

While reading, it was fun to YouTube their performances to understand the performances, costumes, and music Katia described. This created a stronger emotional impact for me and it was captivating to watch their connection on the ice. The book is not only a story of love and perseverance but also an insight into the lives of professional skaters. Katia shared the cultural differences she and Sergei encountered during their travels and life together in the United States. I hope friends of the Olympic Museum enjoy this book as much as I did, and I encourage everyone to dive into the world of G&G.