Russian pairs skating dominance is unlike anything we have seen in the United States. Here is how they stack up against America’s most dominant teams.
Dating back to 1964, pair skaters – from what was then the Soviet Union – have dominated their discipline within figure skating. Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov were the first of five straight teams who would combine to win seven gold medals until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Belousova and Potopopov began their reign by winning three straight silver world championships from 1962-1964, before winning Olympic gold at the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck. After Innsbruck, the married duo simply known as “the Protopopovs” was unstoppable, winning four straight world championship golds and adding another Olympic gold in 1968. Belousova passed away in September 2017.
Soviet dominance stretches past the Olympics and includes the world championships in pairs skating. From 1965-1991 the Soviet Union won 23 of 26 Worlds gold medals, never placing worse than silver during this stretch. During this era, the Soviets earned gold and silver in the same competition 12 times and swept the Worlds podium twice (1969 and 1988).
“For decades, Soviet or Russian pairs could be counted on for dominant performances built on great speed, unison, strength, emotion and classic ballet line, their blades whispering across the ice on swift and nearly silent crossover moves,” recalled writer Jere Longman from the New York Times.