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Throwback: Bolero brilliance brings Sarajevo gold to Torvill and Dean

Ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of Great Britain perform their Bolero routine for the Ice Dance Skating at the XIV Olympic Winter Games on 14 February 1984 Skenderija II Hall, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.  (Photo by Trevor Jones/Getty Images)

February 14, 1984

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s flawless performance to capture Olympic ice dancing gold enthralled a nation and set the record for the highest score for a single programme.

Skating to Ravel’s Bolero for the free dance section of their competition at the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games, they received 12 perfect 6.0s and six 5.9s, including 6s across the board on artistic impression alone.

Back in their native United Kingdom, the performance was watched by 24 million people, at the time not far from half the entire population. It remains one of the most watched moments in British television history.

Bolero itself was 18 minutes long and the pair had a musical arranger who could only condense it down to four minutes and 28 seconds, 18 seconds more than the Olympic rules allowed.

They found a loophole in the system whereby the routine only officially started when the skaters began to move on skates so no blades touched the ice (the couple dancing instead on their knees initially) for the opening 18 seconds.

Their routine was aided by the actor Michael Crawford, a famous British comedy actor and the star of stage show Phantom of the Opera.

Torvill and Dean had previously danced to a version of Barnum, and Crawford had been the American showman PT Barnum in the original London show.

“As the music finished, there was a sense that we had reached the top of our mountain, our volcano.”

Christopher Dean

Looking back on the golden routine, Dean recalled: “As the music finished, there was a sense that we had reached the top of our mountain, our volcano.” They were met with champagne by their entire team including the Queen of England’s daughter, Princess Anne.

Before becoming professional skaters, Dean had worked as a policeman while Torvill was an insurance clerk.

They turned professional the same year, thereby ruling themselves out from future Games until the International Olympic Committee changed the rules for Lillehammer 1994. The pair made a comeback for the 1993 season and ended up with bronze in Norway the following year.

They later starred on television with the series Dancing on Ice.


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