Review of My Sergei
by Ekaterina Gordeeva with E.M. Swift

by Lorrie Kim
Originally posted on on October 23, 1996

This book is an incredible triumph. It is not a cheesy "sports biography." It is not a coffeetable book. It is a real memoir! And Ed Swift is brilliant about polishing Katia's English. You can still imagine her saying most of these things, but he doesn't leave in all the second-language mistakes.

The book settles two r.s.s.i.f. discussions:

1) Katia says that growing up, she never heard negative propaganda about the U.S. and was not taught to view it as the enemy.

2) For those concerned that it is somehow wrong to discuss Katia's future love life: she herself was discussing it, even during her 40-day mourning period. Her priest, Father Nikolai, assured her that he would bless any union of hers, and that Sergei would want it that way.

Gordeeva exercises the writer's prerogative to take revenge on deserving. For example, the day after their win in Lillehammer (on their way to a party), Vadim Naumov apparently accused Grinkov of reinstating just to win another gold, declared that G&G hadn't improved any, and complained that he and Shishkova could have won a bronze if only. Grinkov said nothing in return.

There is also a chapter devoted to a former coach whom Gordeeva despises with all her might. His name is Stanislav Alexeyvich Zhuk and he trained them for a year ('85 or '86). He was an alcoholic, abusive, and Gordeeva states that he beat and sexually harassed Anna Kondrashova and other female skaters. Kondrashova was in tears daily and finally the skaters rallied to get him demoted, no mean feat since he was a colonel in the Soviet army.

Gordeeva stresses that her life before widowhood was sheltered, but there were plenty of strange sad emotions nonetheless. The whole emotional tone of this book is edgy. She does not in any way come off as a fairy-tale princess in a seamless love. She writes of insecurities, jealousies, arguments, lack of sexual confidence, times when Sergei exhibited Male Incommunicado Syndrome and Male Gift-Giving Failure. In short, what you would expect from a woman who entered her first and only relationship at the green age of seventeen. It is clear that their love was healthy and strong; I mean only that G&G were not some romantic fantasy, but a real couple with normal emotions.

Possibly the strangest saddest note was the couple's relationship to choreographer Marina Zueva. Gordeeva writes that Zueva and Grinkov were extremely close, speaking of artistic ideas she didn't know, making her feel left out. Briefly -- so briefly a reader could miss it -- Gordeeva writes that she thinks Zueva loved Grinkov, and how hard it was for her to take that. Considering their long friendship, and Zueva's role in helping Gordeeva through last year, I think Gordeeva was courageous to write that truth plainly, and I appreciate it.

One theme is that G&G never planned more than two days ahead for anything, not even if or when they would have children. This lack of planning kind of shocks me, and Gordeeva points out that it is a fundamental difference between Russian and American women; she says American women have so much more to plan for. But it is obvious that Gordeeva is becoming Americanized in this area, so she can be responsible for her daughter, and it is helping her to develop as an adult in a way that she might never have if she'd been Sergei Grinkov's sheltered wife forever. She says she wants to coach; perhaps, like Tamara Moskvina and Irina Rodnina, she will be one of those monumental Russian female pairs coaches that fill Americans with awe.

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