WISE WORDS: Torvill And Dean On The Shock Of Losing, And The Challenge Of Letting Go

In the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they've learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.


Torvill and Dean have been British household names for more than three decades, since they took their uniquely expressive ice dancing skills and triumphed at the 1994 Winter Olympics with their stunning 'Bolero'. They won gold, and encouraged millions of fans to take to local rinks.

Torvill and Dean's 'Bolero' made them ice dancing superstars

They were unable to resist returning to the Olympics in 1994, where they had to settle for bronze. Since turning professional, they have toured all over the world, and been resident experts on 'Dancing on Ice' on TV. They both have OBEs, both for their sporting prowess, and their charity work, for which they are being recognised today at a Variety, the Children’s Charity, in their honour.

To mark the event, the pair spoke to HuffPostUK about what it's taken to get this far, what stopped it all going horribly to their heads and way a surprising defeat helped shape their career in a way they couldn't have imagined...


What do you do to switch off from the world?

JAYNE: Coming home from a day’s work, sitting down quietly with a glass of wine.

CHRIS: Being in my office, what I think of as my command centre. And I like a bit of TV. My favourites are ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Frasier’.

How do you deal with negativity?

JAYNE: We’re lucky, there hasn’t been much. But there’s been the odd thing. When it’s happened, I just try to reflect on all the good things that have come our way. We’ve been lucky.

CHRIS: I try to think of it as tomorrow’s chip paper, and remember it’s trivial stuff, usually. I think, ultimately, if you try to be a good person, then you can go to sleep at night, without it mattering too much.

When and where are you happiest?

CHRIS: It sound corny, but it’s when I’m working with my skating partner.

JAYNE: And I’m not just agreeing, but it’s exactly the same for me. You appreciate it so much more as you get older. We’ve been really lucky to be able to do it for so long.

CHRIS: And we’re aware we don’t have much longer to do it. So it’s become a really precious thing.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

JAYNE: My mum always told me, before we ever won anything, and then when we started, ‘Well done, but there’ll always be somebody better.’ She wasn’t trying to put me down, she was just reminding me not to be complacent, that I had to keep working, and it was the best thing she could have said.

CHRIS: I remember the first time I read, ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.’ I’m ridiculously competitive.

Jayne and Chris credit their working class roots and tireless work ethic for their success

What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?

JAYNE: When we decided to go back to the Olympics in 1994 (Torvill and Dean had won gold medals in 1984 in Sarajevo, but had to settle for bronze in Lillehammer, Norway), it was a shock to lose, but we had to move on, somehow. The hardest lesson was accepting it in our own heads.

Funnily enough, there was such an outcry to our losing, that everywhere we went on tour afterwards, we got a lot more support than perhaps we would have had, and we found ourselves in more demand. So that loss ended up giving our careers another 10 years, something I could never have imagined.

CHRIS: I would add to that, for me, it’s been about learning to let go of the passion for ice dancing, and leaving it to younger people, and helping them where I can. You get a bit wiser as you get older. Finding things to replace my passion for ice skating continues to be my biggest challenge.

What would you tell your 13-year-old self?

JAYNE: It’s going to be fine.

CHRIS: There’s no need to be anxious.

What remaining things are at the top of your to-do list?

JAYNE: Running a marathon.

CHRIS: Choreographing a Circle du Soleil performance. And learning to fly.

What do you think happens when we die?

JAYNE: I have no idea. And I like that. There’s no point worrying.

CHRIS: I’d like to think there’s something else out there.

When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?

JAYNE: I just don’t.

CHRIS: When I’m watching someone like Tim Peake beaming his extraordinary pictures back to Earth.

What do you try to bring to your relationships?

JAYNE: To be kind, inspire courage. To work towards something together.

CHRIS: Respect, and determination.

What keeps you grounded?

JAYNE: We have very working-class backgrounds, and we haven’t strayed from how we grew up. We’ve always had a strong work ethic, that the harder you try, the better you get.

CHRIS: Our generation grew up with different influences, we were never trying to be famous for its own sake. For us, it was about achieving something. It’s why our work for the Variety Club is so rewarding, too, giving us the chance to give something back.

What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?

JAYNE: We just finished working in pantomime, and received loads of letters. People were so grateful, and kind with what they said about us. And the idea of putting pen to paper in this era feels very special.

CHRIS: Some people just write in to say thankyou for touching them in some way. It reminds me we’re all part of a big jigsaw, and ultimately it’s about finding your own small part, and playing it as best you can.

Click here for more information on Variety, the Children’s Charity, and its work.