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First in history: legendary Olympic figure skating champion who escaped to Switzerland from the U.S.S.R. dies

Maksym InshakovNews
The native of Leningrad has been living abroad for the last 40 years

Legendary Soviet figure skater Oleg Protopopov has died at the age of 92, the Russian Olympic Committee has announced. The four-time world champion in pairs figure skating passed away in his sleep at his home in Switzerland, where he moved more than 40 years ago.

A native of Leningrad survived the siege of the city during World War II at the age of 10. In 1954, together with Ludmila Belousova, he began to perform professionally in figure skating. Later, Belousova became his wife. They won gold at the 1964 Olympic Games in Innsbruck and in 1968 in Grenoble, becoming the first Soviet champions of the Olympic Games in figure skating.

First in history: legendary Olympic figure skating champion who escaped to Switzerland from the U.S.S.R. dies

The Protopopov/Belousova duo made a significant contribution to the development of figure skating by introducing new elements that later became part of the standard program for figure skaters around the world.

First in history: legendary Olympic figure skating champion who escaped to Switzerland from the U.S.S.R. dies

In September 1979, Oleg Protopopov and Ludmila Bilousova, who had not yet completed their active sports careers, applied for political asylum in Switzerland, where they were on tour with an ice ballet.

First in history: legendary Olympic figure skating champion who escaped to Switzerland from the U.S.S.R. dies

This provoked a big scandal as they were famous athletes and were considered stars of Soviet sports who moved to the West.

In addition to their successes at the Olympics and World Championships, the pair won the European Championships (1965-1968), as well as silver medals at the World Championships three times and at the European Championships four times. Ludmila Belusova passed away in September 2017, having lived to be 81 years old.

First in history: legendary Olympic figure skating champion who escaped to Switzerland from the U.S.S.R. dies

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