Inside Edge: A Revealing Journey Into the Secret World of Figure Skating

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Figure skating is the most beautiful and mysterious of all sports. When the skaters are on the ice, every twitch of a muscle and every slip of a skate blade is visible for the world to see. In Inside Edge, Christine Brennan chronicles--for the first time--a season on the skating circuit, intimately portraying the lives, on and off the ice, of the sport's current and upcoming stars. Woven into the narrative are stories of figure skating luminaries past, present, and future--including Peggy Fleming, Katarina Witt, ...
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Overview

Figure skating is the most beautiful and mysterious of all sports. When the skaters are on the ice, every twitch of a muscle and every slip of a skate blade is visible for the world to see. In Inside Edge, Christine Brennan chronicles--for the first time--a season on the skating circuit, intimately portraying the lives, on and off the ice, of the sport's current and upcoming stars. Woven into the narrative are stories of figure skating luminaries past, present, and future--including Peggy Fleming, Katarina Witt, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Oksana Baiul, Michelle Kwan, Rudy Galindo, and Tara Lipinski. Revealing the backstage conflicts high-profile figure skaters face, and the ambition that drives them, Brennan also tells the stories of their families, of improbable rises to the top, and of wasted talents.

If skaters are perfect, they can become international heroes. But if they fall, if they miss a three-revolution jump on a quarter-inch blade of steel, the despair is theirs alone. This is their life on the edge, where decades of training culminate in little more than four crucial minutes on the ice. There is no other sport like it. There is no other story like theirs.

The figure skaters gathered slowly in the mahogany-paneled lobby of the majestic Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, New York, flashing no smiles, barely saying a word. The collection of gregarious entertainers had been reduced to silent, wide-eyed stares. The crackling wood in the fireplace made the room's only noise.

They had met in hotel lobbies in fancy street clothes hundreds of times in the past, but never for an event as devastating as this. On a cold night in late November 1995, they were to travel through snowswept Adirondack mountain roads to a nearby funeral home for a private wake for Sergei Grinkov, their colleague and friend who died of a massive heart attack during a skating practice the day before.

Sports reporter Christine Brennan reveals the hidden world of figure skating, a sport loved for its seductive grace and artistry--as it becomes ever more popular following the clash between skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan--showing that what might appear to be all sequins and lace on the ice is as competitive and brutal as any game played in the NFL or NBA. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

People
"Riveting exposé...A perfect primer."
Hartford Courant
"Inside Edge reads like a magazine article you can't put down."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Perfect 6.0s across the board, Christine Brennan, for technical and artisticmerit."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Washington Post sports reporter Brennan knows all the greats in figure skating-past, present and probably future. So she is superbly qualified to do a book about the sport. And, she counsels, make no mistake: despite all the talk of style and grace, it is nonetheless a competitive sport, but unique in that women are more important than men at the box office and in the officials' offices. Here she follows the season from October 1994 to the Nationals held the following February, concentrating largely on the likely stars of tomorrow. Of course she touches on the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan imbroglio and the arrest of U.S. champ Nicole Bobek on a burglary charge (later dismissed), but she is less interested in scandal than in showing how a year's work and tens of thousands in parental dollars can be lost by a couple of missteps in a single four-minute program. She demonstrates how the homosexuality of many-perhaps most-of the men in the sport is covered up, how quixotic the judging is and how the sport is becoming more like tennis as it attracts younger participants and more high-powered agents. In short, she covers every aspect thoroughly and candidly in this fine volume. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Not many people paid attention to figure skating until Tonya and Nancy squared off. Now this book on the subject merits huge publicity and a ten-city tour.
School Library Journal
YAChampionship figure skating is not all sequins and spandex. It is hard work and heartbreak, practice and programs. Skaters train rigorously for years, only to have their ultimate success depend upon a four-minute program or even a four-second triple jump. Failure, or even hesitation, at this point often ends a career. Brennan has covered figure-skating for the Washington Post for 11 years. She brings a love of her sport and a crisp, clear writing style to a topic sure to interest many YAs. Loosely structured around the six-month competitive season, the text covers everything from the development of the sport, through changes in the competitive requirements, to the media bonanza that it has become. The author interviews and profiles many skaters, known and forgotten, coaches, parents, and judges along the way. While this is not exactly an expos, it is a hard look at the realities of a sport more applauded for its personalities and their appearances than their athletic excellence. Brennan doesn't flinch from chastising the U.S. Figure Skating Association for attempting to ignore the impact of AIDS on the sport or from discussing the homosexuality of many of the skaters. Easily read and digested, this title should make readers watch these athletes with new understanding and think twice before they commit to the demanding life of a championship figure skater.Susan H. Woodcock, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385486071
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 323
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The figure skaters gathered slowly in the mahogany-paneled lobby of the majestic Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, New York, flashing no smiles, barely saying a word. The collection of gregarious entertainers had been reduced to silent, wide-eyed stares. The crackling wood in the fireplace made the room's only noise.

They had met in hotel lobbies in fancy street clothes hundreds of times in the past, but never for an event as devastating as this. On a cold night in late November 1995, they were to travel through snowswept Adirondack mountain roads to a nearby funeral home for a private wake for Sergei Grinkov, their colleague and friend who died of a massive heart attack during a skating practice the day before.

Scott Hamilton, who always has been the leader of the Stars of Ice tour, came down from his room first. He had not yet heard the news of the day, that an autopsy performed on Grinkov revealed that his left anterior artery, which feeds the heart muscle, was virtually closed. The autopsy also found that the twenty-eight-year-old Grinkov's heart was enlarged from high blood pressure and that the two-time Olympic gold medalist had suffered an earlier heart attack within twenty-four hours of his death.

"I talked to him that morning," Hamilton said when told the news. "I couldn't tell that anything was wrong. He was talking about Dasha [Daria, the three-year-old daughter of Grinkov and his wife and skating partner, Ekaterina Gordeeva] coming to be with them, and he was great and very excited. If anything was wrong with him, I never knew."

Grinkov collapsed while he and Gordeeva were practicing for the opening performance of the 1995-96 Stars on Ice tour. Gordeeva and Grinkov were running through a program on the USA rink, one of four ice surfaces in Lake Placid's Olympic Center, when he was stricken. Several skaters said that after lifting Gordeeva, Grinkov set her back down and then stopped skating.

"Are you okay?" Gordeeva asked her husband.

"I just feel a little dizzy," he told her.

She helped him sit on the ice. He then started to lay back and lost consciousness. Rescue workers arrived within three or four minutes but they couldn't revive him. By then, word of Grinkov's collapse had reached the other skaters working in an adjacent rink. They all frantically raced to the USA rink and were standing or kneeling beside Grinkov when he was carried off by paramedics and taken to Adirondack Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:28 P.M. Monday, November 20, 1995, three days before Thanksgiving.

"They're devastated, obviously," Hamilton said about the Stars on Ice cast. "They can't make sense out of any of it, and neither can I. He was the biggest, strongest, most capable of all of us, and he's gone."

Paul Wylie, like Hamilton, said he never saw any indication that Grinkov was having heart pain or shortness of breath.

"The guy was on the bike every day," Wylie said. "One of my last vivid memories of him was last Saturday, working out in the hotel gym with him. We were both on the bikes and he was lifting weights too. He looked over at me and said in his Russian accent, 'Good boy, good boy.' He was always like that."
Wylie said the skaters all are responsible for their own medical checkups, adding he knew only that Grinkov was seeing a doctor for a back that had been giving him problems for months.

"It's not like a team sport," he said. "We're all independent contractors. If I miss a show, I don't get paid. We all know it's our responsibility. I think Sergei did look out for his health."

The day after Grinkov died, Wylie wandered into the USA rink, a place most of the others were avoiding.

"I had to walk out there, even though my mind was flashing back to what happened there on Monday, to seeing him lying on the ice with the paramedics around him, putting my hand on Katia's back, touching his skate, praying that he would be okay," Wylie said. "I didn't want to go, but I told myself, 'No, you are going to get on this ice.' It was a haunting thing, especially skating over the patch of ice where he lay and that feeling of helplessness that came rushing back to me, but I had to face it head on."

Gordeeva and Grinkov, who was five foot eleven and weighed 180 pounds, won the 1988 and 1994 Olympic gold medals in pairs skating, as well as four world championships. They had settled into a lucrative professional career that allowed them to perform their graceful and romantic programs before more than half a million spectators a year. In addition, they regularly appeared in televised professional events.

"What they had is what everyone wants," Kristi Yamaguchi said. "My first year on tour, I watched them almost every night. I'd go out and stand in a corner and just watch them. They just floated across the ice."

"Rosalynn Sumners and I stood on the ice during a number last year as they skated, and we always said to each other, 'Isn't that amazing?' " Wylie said. "They way she looked at him, this power between them, so beautiful and pure, yet so effortless in appearance. They reminded me of Romeo and Juliet."

On the 1994-95 tour, Hamilton led into a romantic duet by the pair by standing alone on the ice after being snubbed by various female skaters. He told the audience: "Then something catches your eye, something so pure, so genuine, so incredible, that you realize that, yes, you can in fact have it all."

At the private wake, Gordeeva told several of her fellow skaters, "Maybe it was too perfect."

Living and traveling in a new land, often without their daughter and with so many American stars, was not always easy, Gordeeva and Grinkov said during a wistful interview ten months before his death.

"Sometimes I think people like us and think we're so good," said Gordeeva, who spoke for the both of them. "But when people like Paul Wylie and Katarina Witt skate, the fans give them their hearts. I can't think we're the best here. I still feel like we're guests [with the American fans].

"I know for sure we will never get a standing ovation. We had one once, at Madison Square Garden, but the fans do that mostly for other skaters. A standing ovation would be the best for me. A standing ovation is the only thing we wish for. But maybe I need to change my mint, because it's hard [for Russians] to take America's heart. Americans like, 'Wow,' but we are more like, 'Awwww...' "
As Gordeeva talked, Grinkov, who spoke little English, nodded his head and smiled.

Two days after Grinkov's death, the day before Thanksgiving, Wylie dashed out of the inn to get his picture taken for a Russian visa. He was preparing to go to Moscow for Grinkov's funeral.

Asking for directions to get to the photographer, Wylie was told by the other skaters to "make a turn at the road that goes up to Sergei and Katia's."
The condominium where Grinkov and Gordeeva had been living was just up the street.

"You always said their names together, and that's the way we'll always think of them," Wylie said. "The two of them, together."

"You don't think of one without the other," Hamilton said.

While Hamilton and Wylie prepared to fly to Russia, Gordeeva, her parents, and 1992 Olympic gold medalist Viktor Petrenko drove home from the condo to her permanent U.S. home in Simsbury, Connecticut. There, they picked up Daria and left for Moscow. Gordeeva and her daughter observed a traditional Russian Orthodox forty-day mourning period before returning to the United States.

In late February 1996, Gordeeva and the Stars on Ice cast skated a memorial for Grinkov in Hartford, Connecticut. As a national television audience watched on CBS, Gordeeva performed on her own in public for the first time, with a spotlight shining where Grinkov would have been.

Even a day or two after Grinkov's death, the other skaters knew Gordeeva would return to the ice.

"She'll come back to us," Hamilton said. "That's what she is, a skater. She understands we are her family and she'll come back to us when it's time."
"It's hard for us as Americans to understand, because we're not from that culture, but skating is of the utmost importance to her family and to her," Wylie said. "I really do hope she comes back. She's just a precious, precious person."

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2014

    excellent!

    excellent!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2004

    Informative&Interesting

    Interesting, opinionated and factual it depicts the lives of former& present skaters on and off the ice and takes you behind the scenes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2001

    A Bit Outdated But Still A GREAT read!

    If you are even slightly considering buying Brenna's 1998 Olympic chronicle, Edge of Glory, this book should be required reading beforehand. Like her second book, the writing style is very clear and easy to follow and puts the reader right into the middle of the action. The book also delves into the US junior ladies ranks, an area of skating not often covered by the media and most certainly never in the depth that the book goes into. Readers also get a look at one of these junior skaters, Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic champion and skating dynamo, as well as skaters like Michelle Kwan and Rudy Galindo before any of them became the household names they are today.

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