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Oleg Alekseyevich Protopopov (Russian: Оле́г Алексе́евич Протопо́пов; born 16 July 1932)[1][2] is a former Russian pair skater who represented the Soviet Union. With his wife Ludmila Belousova he is a two-time Olympic champion (1964, 1968) and four-time World champion (1965–1968).[3] In 1979, the pair defected to Switzerland and became Swiss citizens in 1995. They continued to skate at ice shows and exhibitions through their seventies.

Oleg Protopopov
Oleg Protopopov 1965.jpg
Oleg Protopopov in 1965
Personal information
Full nameOleg Alekseyevich Protopopov
Country represented Soviet Union
Born (1932-07-16) 16 July 1932 (age 87)
Leningrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Height1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
PartnerLudmila Belousova
Former partnerMargarita Bogoyavlenskaya
Former coachIgor Moskvin, Pyotr Orlov, Stanislav Zhuk


Belousova and Protopopov in 1966

Protopopov started skating relatively late, at age 15, and was coached by Nina Lepninskaya.[1][4] In 1951, he was drafted into the Baltic Fleet but used each leave to skate.[4] His first partner was Margarita Bogoyavlenskaya, with whom he won the silver medal at the 1953 Soviet Championships.

Protopopov met Ludmila Belousova in the spring of 1954 in Moscow.[4] She moved to Leningrad in 1955 and began training with Protopopov in 1956 following his discharge.[4] They trained at VSS Lokomotiv and competed internationally for the USSR. Belousova and Protopopov were coached initially by Igor Moskvin and then by Pyotr Orlov, but parted ways with Orlov after a number of disagreements.[4] The pair then trained without a coach at a rink in Voskresensk, Moscow Oblast.[5] In 1961, they decided to work with Stanislav Zhuk to raise their technical difficulty.[5]

Belousova and Protopopov in 1968
Belousova and Protopopov in 2007

Belousova and Protopopov debuted at the World Championships in 1958, finishing 13th. Two years later they competed at their first Olympics, placing 9th. In 1962, they made the World Championship podium for the first time, earning the silver medal. They were the first pair from the Soviet Union or Russia to win a World medal since the discipline's introduction at the 1908 World Championships (which had only three pairs competing). They also won silver at the European Championships, becoming the second Soviet pair to win medals after Nina Zhuk / Stanislav Zhuk (who won silver from 1958 to 1960).

Belousova and Protopopov's first major international gold medal came at the 1964 Winter Olympics. It was the first Olympic pairs gold for the Soviet Union. Belousova and Protopopov began the forty-year Soviet/Russian gold medal streak in pair skating, the longest in Olympic sports history, from 1964 to 2006.

Belousova and Protopopov won their first World and European gold medals in 1965, and in so doing, also became the first Soviet/Russian pair to win those titles.

They became Olympic champions for the second time at the 1968 Winter Olympics. At 32 and 35 years old, respectively, they were among the oldest champions in figure skating.

The following season, they won the silver medal at the European Championships and bronze at the World Championships as Irina Rodnina began her reign with her first partner, Alexei Ulanov. Those were the pair's final appearances at major international competitions but they would continue to compete within the Soviet Union until 1972.

In total, Belousova and Protopopov won two Olympic titles and also won medals eight times at both the World and European Championships, including four consecutive World and European gold medals. After retiring from competition, they skated in shows and continue to do so. In September 2015, they renewed their long-standing tradition of skating in a charitable exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts, called "Evening with Champions".

Belousova and Protopopov contributed to the development of pairs skating, including introducing three death spirals – the backward inside (BIDS), forward inside (FIDS), and forward outside (FODS), which they dubbed the Cosmic spiral, Life spiral, and Love spiral, respectively. Dick Button stated: "The Protopopovs are great skaters not only because they were the finest of Olympic champions, but also because their creative impact was extraordinary."[6]

Personal lifeEdit

Protopopov was raised by his mother, a professional ballet dancer, and his stepfather, a poet. He graduated from Herzen University, faculty of physical education.[5]

Belousova and Protopopov married in December 1957.[1] Although she kept her maiden name after their marriage, the pair are commonly referred to as "The Protopopovs".[6] Eager to keep skating the pair decided not to have children.[7]

On 24 September 1979, Belousova and Protopopov defected to Switzerland while on tour and applied for political asylum.[8][9] They settled in Grindelwald and eventually received Swiss citizenship in 1995.[3][10] Switzerland remains their winter home while their summer home and training center is Lake Placid, New York.[11][6] On 25 February 2003, they visited Russia for the first time after a 23-year exile, upon the invitation of Vyacheslav Fetisov.[7] They attended the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Belousova died on 29 September 2017. She was 81.[12]

Competitive highlightsEdit

(with Bogoyavlenskaya)

Event 1953
Soviet Championships 2nd

(with Belousova)

Event 1954–55 1955–56 1956–57 1957–58 1958–59 1959–60 1960–61 1961–62 1962–63 1963–64
Winter Olympic Games 9th 1st
World Championships 13th 8th 2nd 2nd 2nd
European Championships 10th 7th 4th 2nd 2nd 2nd
Soviet Championships 3rd 4th 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st 1st 1st
Event 1964–65 1965–66 1966–67 1967–68 1968–69 1969–70 1970–71 1971–72 1972–73
Winter Olympic Games 1st
World Championships 1st 1st 1st 1st 3rd
European Championships 1st 1st 1st 1st 2nd
Soviet Championships 1st 1st 1st 2nd 4th 6th 3rd
Prize of Moscow News 3rd 1st 2nd


  1. ^ a b c Oleg Protopopov and Lyudmila Belousova, Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved 1 September 2011
  2. ^ "Oleg Protopopov". ESPN. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  3. ^ a b Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Oleg Protopopov". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Олег Протопопов. Биографическая справка [Oleg Protopopov. Curriculum Vitae]. (in Russian). 16 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Звезды советского фигурного катания - Протопопов и Белоусова [Stars of Soviet figure skating - Protopopov and Belousova]. (in Russian). 16 July 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Sausa, Christie (31 August 2011). "Lake Placid to honor icons". Lake Placid News. Archived from the original on 15 November 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  7. ^ a b Коньки с бриллиантами. 1 March 2003.
  8. ^ "Scooting Away on Skates", Time, 8 October 1979, retrieved 1 September 2011
  9. ^ Russell, Susan D. "Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov: Revolutionaries in pairs skating" (PDF). Skating Club of Lake Placid.
  10. ^ Srebnitskaya, Daria (24 January 2002). Людмила Белоусова, Олег Протопопов: Нас прятали в швейцарских отелях [Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov: We hid in a Swiss hotel]. Sovetsky Sport (in Russian). Archived from the original on 20 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Lake Placid honors figure skating legends". icenetwork. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  12. ^ Two-time Soviet-era Olympic champion pair skater Ludmila Belousova passes away

External linksEdit

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
  George Moore
BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year
(with Ludmila Belousova)

Succeeded by
  Rod Laver