NAGANO, Japan — By decree of the international coalition of ice dancing judges, in a decision made months ago--possibly years ago--Pasha Grishuk and Evgeny Platov of Russia repeated as Olympic champions Monday night.
This being a newspaper, however, the only development truly worth reporting is how the rest of ice dancing field in Nagano felt about it.
A quick sampling of opinion:
* Silver medalist Anjelika Krylova of Russia: "All I can say is the public liked us better. I think we had a better program overall."
* Fourth-place finisher Shae-Lynn Bourne of Canada: "I think we skated like champions tonight. . . . I really believe we could have been at the top."
* Natalia Dubova, former coach of Grishuk and Platov, currently employed to train Bourne and her partner, Victor Kraatz: "All of us remember what [Jayne] Torvill and [Christopher] Dean did to improve our sport, how many steps they brought up the sport. I always ask myself, 'What have Grishuk and Platov done for the sport?' For me, they don't bring the sport up."
* And more from Dubova: "Grishuk and Platov, I teach them so many things, and they don't use any of it. I teach them for so many years, and they can do so much more. What they have now, is just a funny program."
* And more from Dubova still: "They have not improved, they are just more experienced. They are tired. They cannot do this work that Bourne and Kraatz do, they can only do these simple things.
"Grishuk and Platov, their music must be much louder and stronger. They need the music to help them. Bourne and Kraatz, the music and the skating are together, like a package."
Grishuk and Platov, the people's champions?
Perhaps. If nothing else, Pasha knows how to charm a crowd.
The judges' champions?
Without a scintilla of doubt. As Dubova was saying, the judges had this result determined at least a month ago, at the European championships in Milan, and possibly as long ago as last March's world championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.
But the dancers' champions?
Not the way Torvill and Dean were after they had seduced Sarajevo--and all of the television-watching free world--with "Bolero" in 1984.
Not if the gold medal were determined by taking a popularity poll inside the ice dancers' dressing room.
Not that Grishuk or Platov mind, mind you.
"We brought the sport back," Grishuk said. "We did it. When people were saying the ice dancing does not belong in the Olympics, that it is not a sport, that it is like ballroom dancing, we tried to improve the sport and make it look very interesting, very exciting and difficult. . . .
"In my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of people who were telling us this, we really developed the sport and make it look like a real sport. We brought a lot of new movements into ice dancing, things nobody else ever did before.
"We make the sport happen, and we make the sport continue."
Having the foregone approval of international ice dancing judges has helped greatly in this Russian revolution. On the surface, the statistics are most impressive: Grishuk and Platov have won 22 consecutive competitions, including the last two Olympic titles, making them the first ice dance team to repeat as Olympic gold medalists.
But if ever a sport was made for CBS and these Memorex Games--all on videotape, all the time--it is ice dancing, where the final results are prerecorded months in advance and eventually released, amid much phony suspense, at a much later date.
It is the ultimate in canned competition, where the judges know who will win in advance, the fans know who will win in advance and the skaters know who will win in advance--yet everyone plays along and smiles for the television cameras.
Grishuk and Platov set the foundation for this gold medal the moment they won their first in 1994. At that point, they were established as the cream of the sport. From then on, as long as they continued to show up for their routines on time and refrained from breaking any major bones, they were all but guaranteed first place in every event they entered.
At these Games, the order of the top nine teams remained unchanged through four rounds of dances, with the lone exception of Bourne and Kraatz, who made the quantum leap from fifth on Friday to fourth on Monday.
Likewise, the American team of Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow began the event in seventh place and stayed there.
Even long-time coach Dubova concedes that "Ice dancing is not a sport. Something must be done. It's impossible anymore. When five of them are from the East bloc, it is easy for them to work together."
For this Olympic exercise, five of the nine judges on the panel were from former Eastern bloc countries--Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Dubova also accused France of making it a six-pack, colluding with Russia in order to ensure Russian and French dancers shared all the medals in Nagano--which is precisely what happened.