In Memory of Ludmilia Belousova Protopov, 1935-2017
Pairs skating legend passes away at the age of 81.
Today we received the news that Ludmila Belousova Protopov has died. She and her partner and husband Oleg Protopov were one of the greatest pairs skating teams of all time. They won two Olympic golds in 1964 and 1968, starting Soviet/Russian winning streak that last forty years. They invented multiple elements, including the death spiral that skating fans now take for granted. But most of all, they were known for breathtaking artistry, and longevity, skating and performing together for sixty years.
It was even more remarkable considering neither of them even started skating until they were sixteen, three years before they were paired together. They were old for competitive skaters when they won their golds. When they defected to the West in 1979, they were at an age when most show skaters were in their final years. But in the following years, competing at the World Professional Championships, that we saw some of their best work.
Videos from their earlier years are less common, though last summer, the ISU uploaded one from 1962, which also includes a good account of their career.
1965 Europeans, the first time they won that competition:
The 1968 Olympics, their second gold:
We have plenty of videos of the famous programs they skated in the 1980s, from Ave Maria:
To the Dying Swan:
To Moonlight Sonata:
After their defection, they divided their time between Switzerland and Lake Placid, and became regulars at the yearly Evening With Champions show in Boston. They would skate there through their final years together, as their health would allow. Even when they were entering their sixties and seventies, they could still make magic on the ice:
With her gone, they are something we will never see again. RIP.