The Russian Legends – The Protopopovs

14 Feb 1968: Ludmila Belousova being lifted by Oleg Protopopov both of the Soviet Union during their routine in the Pairs Figure Skating event at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France. Belousova and Protopopov won the gold medal in this event. Mandatory Credit: IOC Olympic Museum /Allsport

On YouTube, I found a program skated by Ludmila Belousove and Oleg Protopopov. They skated under the name the Protopopovs, and were brilliant pairs skaters in the 1960s. I first heard of them when I read Toller Cranston’s book, Ice Cream, where he counts down, in his opinion, the top figure skaters that revolutionized figure skating.

He notes how their balletic style changed pairs skating. And I have to agree. As I watch it, I couldn’t believe how their seemed to float effortlessly across the ice. The Protopopovs were deemed as “has-beens,” and told they were too old to skate and not worth coaching. Belousove was 29 and Protopopov was 32 in 1964 when they won their first Olympic gold medal, and four years later they won their second gold.

The Protopopovs were similar to Gordeeva and Grinkov. They were simply beautiful on the ice. I wish I had realized it back then when I had the chance to really enjoy their skating. But instead, I was jaded, not understanding that it takes more than sky-high jumps and ceiling hitting twisting to win the worlds.

It takes grace, elegance and beauty. The Protopopovs are well into their 70s, and I don’t know if The Protopopovs still skate today, but five years ago they were still on the ice. And time is definitely their friend.


I did some research after I wrote this blog. As of 2013, they were still performing – time really is on their side.

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