Grinkov and Gordeeva: The Harmony and Trust Shone Through

IN the world of sports, there are few sights more wondrous than that of a man and a woman skating as one, their bladed feet gliding in near-perfect harmony. The epitome of this in pairs skating flowed from a partnership between the Russian husband-and-wife team of Sergei Grinkov and Ekaterina Gordeeva. Grinkov's passing this week occurred while the couple was practicing in Lake Placid, N.Y., for an ice show. The tight-knit figure skating community no doubt will rally around Gordeeva, who won four world and two Olympic championships with her partner. The two won their first world championship when he was 19, she 15, in 1986, and were the only professionals to triumph in the Lillehammer, Norway, Olympics last year.

Pairs skaters enjoy a bond and trust that surpasses that found almost anywhere else in athletics - how else could they perform such breathtaking acrobatics while traveling across a slick, unforgiving surface? The relationship is so close, in fact, that it sometimes leads to marriage, as it did for G&G, who took off a year after their daughter's birth in 1992.

The couple's skating matured as they added more feeling to what had long been technically brilliant. Part of this feeling, of course, was based in a deep-seated love for each other that shone through their youthful countenances and made their height disparity (5 ft. 11 in., and 5 ft. 1 in.) all but disappear.

Even if Gordeeva were to choose to leave skating, she and her partner have established a model for togetherness that transcends their sport. Its beauty and grace can only continue to underline the exquisite possibilities in human unions of all kinds.

Touching other bases

* Pop quiz: Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino is rewriting the record book this season. Whose National Football League career passing marks is he erasing? (Answer below.)

* One wonders what the 1996 Alamo Bowl's appeal will be, when a contract calls for the Big Ten and the new Big 12 conferences to send their No. 4 teams to San Antonio. The Big 12 will merge the Big Eight and four teams from the Southwest Conference - Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor.

* In preparation for next summer's Olympic soccer competition, a football landmark will soon disappear at the University of Georgia in Athens. Sanford Stadium's famous field-encircling hedge will be removed after the football season to make room for a wider playing surface needed for soccer. The hedge, about four or five feet tall, was planted in 1929. A replacement, grown from cuttings, will be planted for the start of the 1996 season.

* Quiz answer: Fran Tarkenton's. Marino has already surpassed Tarkenton's career marks for passing yardage and completions and on Monday tied Tarkenton's record with 342 touchdown tosses. Ironically, neither player wears a championship ring. Tarkenton was the losing Super Bowl quarterback for Minnesota three times. Marino came up short in 1985.

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