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March 31, 1997|LISA DILLMAN

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "Torvill & Dean" by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean with John Man. (Birch Lane Press, $22.95)

Perhaps the biggest flaw with this self-ode is the publication date: 1996.

Time has diminished, in part, the explosive, provocative effect of Bolero, the program that elevated Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean to the ice dancing Olympic gold medal in 1984.

How long ago was their victory?

In 1984, the town of Sarajevo was still lovely, not battered and war torn.

In 1984, Tara Lipinski, the new women's world skating champion, was 2.

Despite the flawed timing, the autobiography "Torvill & Dean," falls into the category of a secondary buy for the avid ice skating fan. Those who know why Oksana Grishuk and Evgeny Platov are better than Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsyannikov--and care--should consider plunking down $22.95 for the 362-page diary-like book.

"Torvill & Dean" is at its best detailing the early years of the eventual four-time world champions, two working class kids from Nottingham, England. Dean's stepmother, Tee, was the one who steered him toward ice dancing, directing him there because she and his father had gone ballroom dancing.

And the two ice dancers had day jobs--Dean, a policeman and Torvill, a worker in an insurance company, and they took time off from work before placing fifth at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

Post Bolero, the material turns into a numbing recitation of tour stops on the professional circuit. And apparently a proofreader failed to see that skating legend Sonja Henie's name was misspelled when talking about the history of the Ice Capades.

Far too many pages are devoted to a spat with Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova. Writes Dean: "I was in a total rage. How dare she!"

Torvill and Dean may have melted the ice with their passion. . . . but there's little danger of that happening with their writing.

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