Ulanov began figure skating in 1954 and became a member of the USSR National Team in 1964. Rodnina / Ulanov began skating together in the 1960s and won several World and European Championships. They were coached by Stanislav Zhuk and trained at the Armed Forces sports society in Moscow. The culmination of their career was their 1972 Olympics win. By this point Ulanov had fallen in love with fellow skater Lyudmila Smirnova. Rodnina / Ulanov separated, and Ulanov began skating with Smirnova.
Ulanov and Smirnova married and later divorced after having two children, Nikolai Ulanov and Irina Ulanova. Their daughter, Irina Ulanova, is a former pair skater who skated with Alexander Smirnov, and Maxim Trankov for about three years.
Ulanov moved to the United States in 1995 and is currently living in South Florida.