Ludmila Belousova

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Ludmila Belousova
Ludmila Belousova in 1965
Full nameLudmila Yevgenyevna Belousova
Born(1935-11-22)22 November 1935
Ulyanovsk, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died26 September 2017(2017-09-26) (aged 81)
Interlaken, Bern, Switzerland
Height1.60 m (5 ft 3 in)
Figure skating career
Country Soviet Union
PartnerOleg Protopopov
Medal record
Representing  Soviet Union
Pairs' Figure skating
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1964 Innsbruck Pairs
World Championships
Bronze medal – third place 1969 Colorado Springs Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1968 Geneva Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1967 Vienna Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1966 Davos Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1965 Colorado Springs Pairs
Silver medal – second place 1964 Dormund Pairs
Silver medal – second place 1963 Cortina d'Ampezzo Pairs
Silver medal – second place 1962 Prague Pairs
European Championships
Silver medal – second place 1969 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1968 Västerås Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1967 Ljubljana Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1966 Bratislava Pairs
Gold medal – first place 1965 Moscow Pairs
Silver medal – second place 1964 Grenoble Pairs
Silver medal – second place 1963 Budapest Pairs
Silver medal – second place 1962 Geneva Pairs

Ludmila Yevgenyevna Belousova (Russian: Людмила Евгеньевна Белоусова; 22 November 1935[1] – 26 September 2017) was a Soviet and Russian pair skater who represented the Soviet Union. With her partner and husband Oleg Protopopov, she was a two-time Olympic champion (1964, 1968) and four-time World champion (1965–1968). 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.


Belousova and Protopopov in 1966

Belousova started skating relatively late, at age 16.[1] after having seen the ice revue movie "Springtime on ice" with Olympic runner-up and European Champion Eva Pawlik of Austria. She trained in Moscow where she met Oleg Protopopov in the spring of 1954.[2] She moved to Leningrad in 1955 and began training with Protopopov in 1956 following his navy discharge.[2] The pair trained at the VSS Lokomotiv sports club and competed internationally for the USSR. They were coached initially by Igor Moskvin and then by Pyotr Orlov, but parted ways with Orlov after a number of disagreements.[2] The pair then trained without a coach at a rink in Voskresensk, Moscow Oblast.[3] In 1961, they decided to work with Stanislav Zhuk to raise their technical level.[3]

Belousova and Protopopov in 1968
Belousova and Protopopov in 2007

Belousova and Protopopov debuted at the World Championships in 1958, finishing 13th. They competed at their first Olympics two years later, placing ninth. 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 after the pair skating discipline was introduced at the 1908 World Championships (in which only three pairs competed). Later in 1962, they won silver at the European Championships, becoming the second Soviet pair to medal after Nina Zhuk and Stanislav Zhuk (who won silver in 1958, 1959, and 1960).

The pair'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. They won their first World and European gold medals in 1965, becoming 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 continued competing in the Soviet Union until 1972.

In total, Belousova and Protopopov won two Olympic titles and medalled eight times at both the World and European Championships, including four consecutive World and European gold medals. After retiring from competition, they continued to skate together in shows for many years. In September 2015, they renewed their long-standing tradition of skating in a charitable exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts, at an event called "Evening with Champions".

Belousova and Protopopov contributed to the development of pair skating, including the creation of three death spirals: the backward inside (BiDs), the forward inside (FiDs), and the forward outside (FoDs), which they respectively dubbed the "Cosmic spiral", "Life spiral", and "Love spiral". 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."[4] Figure skating writer and historian Ellyn Kestnbaum stated that they "raised by several degrees the level of translating classical dance to the ice".[5] As Kestnbaum stated, "Their performances set a benchmark for romantic heterosexuality on the ice and for classical line and expressiveness that influenced not only pair skating but also singles and [ice] dance".[5]

Personal life[edit]

Belousova studied engineering at university.[6] She married Protopopov in December 1957.[1] Although she kept her maiden name after their marriage, the pair were commonly referred to as "The Protopopovs".[4] Eager to keep skating, the couple 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][6] They settled in Grindelwald and received Swiss citizenship in 1995.[9][10] Switzerland remained their winter home while their summer home and training center was Lake Placid, New York.[11][4] On 25 February 2003, they visited Russia after a 23-year asylum, on the invitation of Viacheslav Fetisov.[7] They had their last exhibition dance in 2016, when Belousova was 80 years old.[12]

Competitive highlights[edit]

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.
  2. ^ a b c Олег Протопопов. Биографическая справка [Oleg Protopopov. Curriculum Vitae]. (in Russian). 16 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b Звезды советского фигурного катания – Протопопов и Белоусова [Stars of Soviet figure skating – Protopopov and Belousova]. (in Russian). 16 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Sausa, Christie (31 August 2011). "Lake Placid to honor icons". Lake Placid News. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b Kestnbaum, Ellyn (2003). Culture on Ice: Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning. Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan Publishing Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-8195-6641-1.
  6. ^ a b Russell, Susan D. "Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov: Revolutionaries in pairs skating" (PDF). Skating Club of Lake Placid.
  7. ^ a b Коньки с бриллиантами. 1 March 2003.
  8. ^ "Scooting Away on Skates", Time, 8 October 1979, archived from the original on 15 October 2010, retrieved 1 September 2011
  9. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Lyudmila Belousova". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020.
  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. ^ Хранительница гармонии. 85 лет со дня рождения олимпийской чемпионки Людмилы Белоусовой. (19 November 2020)

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year
(with Oleg Protopopov)

Succeeded by