Thirty-six years have passed since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean took ice skating into over 20 million British living rooms and lit up Sarajevo with a string of perfect sixes.

The pair’s interpretation of Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ remains one of the most famous of all British sporting moments, and the performance by which all subsequent generations of ice dancers continue to be judged.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look back at those handful of extraordinary minutes when Great Britain perched on top of the Winter Olympics world.


Having partnered in Nottingham, Torvill and Dean linked up with the experienced coach Betty Callaway and finished in a creditable fifth place at their first Olympics in Lake Placid in 1980. After taking a fourth place at the World Championships that same year, they would reign over a decade unbeaten – and went into the Sarajevo Winter Games on the back of three straight world gold medals.


Torvill and Dean
Torvill and Dean went to Sarajevo as overwhelming favourites (PA Archive)

Heading to Sarajevo as overwhelming favourites, the pair and their team decided to take what Dean described as a “real risk” with an abridged version of the 11-minute long ‘Bolero’ by Ravel, complete with radically artistic elements including a slowly unfurling beginning and the dramatic, breathless collapse on the final note. For some of the dance elements of the routine, they were tutored by the singer and actor Michael Crawford.


Margaret Thatcher had recently been elected for a second term in office and a sense of general unrest was soon to explode with the beginning of miners’ strike. With memories of John Curry and Robin Cousins still fresh, it was no surprise that the country should turn for inspiration to the overwhelming favourites for Olympic gold. Over 20 million people tuned in to see if Torvill and Dean could live up to their billing and bring home a Winter Games gold.


Winter Olympics – Lillehammer 94 – Figure Skating – Mixed Ice Dancing – Olympic Amphitheatre, Hamar
Torvill and Dean had to be content with bronze on their Olympic return (PA Archive)

The crowd in the then Yugoslavian capital watched in stunned silence as Torvill and Dean proceeded through their blade-perfect routine, before being showered with flowers and sustained applause. Their performance was emphatically vindicated by the judges who issued them a perfect string of 12 6.0 scores for artistic impression from every judge. The so-called “risk” had paid off handsomely.


Dancing On Ice 2020
Torvill and Dean went on to star on ‘Dancing on Ice’ (Ian West/PA)

In the pre-funding days Torvill and Dean had remained strict amateurs, so it was no surprise that they should look to capitalise on their fame and enter the lucrative professional circuit. A relaxation of the rules enabled them to return for the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, but despite huge expectation they were forced to settle for a relatively disappointing bronze. The pair achieved subsequent fame as experts on early series of the ITV celebrity show, ‘Dancing on Ice’.