Oleg Protopopov, figure skater who won Olympic golds with his wife, then defected from the Soviet Union – obituary

Oleg Protopopov, a renowned Russian figure skater, passed away at the age of 91.

Oleg, along with his wife Ludmila Belousova, dominated pairs figure skating in the 1960s, winning Olympic golds in 1964 and 1968 for the Soviet Union.

The Protopopovs revolutionized pairs skating by introducing a romantic, balletic style that shifted the focus from power and athleticism to a more poetic expression.

They were credited with inventing variations of the "death spiral" spin, including the life spiral, love spiral, and cosmic spiral, which are still used in competitions today.

 Oleg faced significant challenges during WWII, surviving the siege of Leningrad and enduring extreme conditions, including eating wood glue for survival.

Oleg started figure skating at the age of 15 and met Ludmila during a coaching seminar in 1954. They became a skating pair, facing obstacles and training independently.

Despite being told they were too old and receiving little official support, the Protopopovs became their own coaches, training outdoors in harsh conditions.

Their remarkable journey included winning silver in the 1962 world championships and achieving consecutive Olympic, world, and European titles from 1965 to 1968.

In 1979, while on tour in Switzerland, the Protopopovs sought political asylum, facing isolation from the Russian sports community due to official obstruction.

Oleg Protopopov's legacy lives on as a pioneer of pairs figure skating, showcasing artistic expression and innovation that continues to influence the sport.

read more about this