Then & Now: Ekaterina Gordeeva
Now: Still figure skating, Ekaterina Gordeeva has also remarried and has two children.
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(CNN) -- In 1995, Olympic gold medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva lost her figure skating partner and husband, Sergei Grinkov, when he died of a heart attack. Ten years later, the athlete still finds comfort on the ice and has found a new love there as well.
"Finally, in the last two or three years, I feel very comfortable to skate by myself and I know what I can do and what I cannot," she told CNN in a recent interview. "I love that I have a job that I love."
But it is the partnership with Sergei Grinkov that first brought this graceful skater fame and heartbreak.
Paired together since they were youths training in the ice rink at the Central Red Army Club in Moscow, Gordeeva and Grinkov learned to move flawlessly together on the ice.
In 1984, the duo won the Junior World Ice Skating Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was their first major victory together, and Gordeeva and Grinkov were poised to take the skating world by storm. They went on to win back-to-back World Championships in 1986 and 1987 and began training intensely for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Canada.
The pair captured the gold medal in their very first Olympic competition, and that same year their relationship blossomed into romance.
Gordeeva and Grinkov married in 1991, and the next year their daughter, Daria, was born. Still, the pair -- who had turned pro -- dreamed of competing in a second Olympic competition. Their dream became a reality when the two took advantage of a change in the official rules allowing professional skaters to compete in the Olympics. Gordeeva and Grinkov headed to Lillehammer, Norway, for the 1994 competition, where they took gold for the second time.
After their second Olympic victory, the famous pair and their daughter settled in Connecticut and began practicing for a professional tour of Stars on Ice that would keep them on the road for three months.
But at a 1995 practice session in Lake Placid, New York, 28-year-old Grinkov collapsed on the ice. An hour later, Grinkov died at a local hospital. Doctors said he died from a heart attack, which scientists later said might have been caused by a defective gene that promotes blood clots.
Gordeeva found solace in an international skating community that was also shaken by Grinkov's sudden death. They rallied around her.
"During that time [the skating community] was very supportive, and they knew the story, and they knew me and Sergei ... so it was nice [to have] good, close friends," Gordeeva said.
In February 1996, she returned to the ice and skated alone in a televised tribute to her late husband. She also chronicled their life together in a national best-selling book, "My Sergei, A Love Story" (distributed by Warner Books, a division owned by Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.com). She followed her first book with a second, this one written for her daughter, "A Letter for Daria."
"To come back on the ice [after Grinkov's death] was hard, and at the same time it was kind of a healing process," Gordeeva said. "I knew there [were] a lot of friends out there, and I wanted to be with them."
Fans flock to see Gordeeva skate solo on the 2004/2005 Stars on Ice tour.
Since her return to the ice, she has starred with fellow skater and friend Scott Hamilton in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on ice, appeared in television commercials and signed other endorsement deals. She even launched her own fragrance line. The solo skater also continues as a member of the Stars on Ice tour.
Along with commercial success came personal fulfillment when the young widow met Olympic champion Ilia Kulik as they skated together in a 1998 tour. They married in San Francisco in 2002 and have a daughter, Elizaveta, together.
While her Olympic gold medals remain dear to her, Gordeeva admits that her children are her greatest accomplishment.
"Family is always the most important part," she said. These days, Gordeeva is as likely to be chopping vegetables in her kitchen, as she is to be gliding around the ice.
"Now, I like to cook good meals ... especially when I have a lot of time," she said. "[Life] has changed gradually, and now I'm ... almost a full-time mom."
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