LAKE PLACID — In the Olympic Arena, a couple glides effortlessly across the ice. At once they start skating, practicing the moves they know so well.
These skaters are not just any athletes. They are 1964 and 1968 Olympic pairs champions Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov. They continue to stay in excellent shape and skate consistently, despite their older age and Oleg’s stroke in November 2009.
The Protopopovs are skating icons, bringing a unique blend of artistry, ingenuity and style to figure skating. They are also the originators of the “death spiral” move, which was originally called the “cosmic spiral” and continues to be a staple element in pairs skating. As such, they have become superstars in the figure skating world.
“I have always said that a great skater is one who not only reaches the top, either as a competitor or a performer, but more important also leaves the world of figure skating better and different just because they were in it,” said two-time Olympic champion Dick Button. “The Protopopovs are great skaters not only because they were the finest of Olympic champions, but also because their creative impact was extraordinary.”
The Protopopovs won the Olympic gold medal in 1964 and 1968, continuing to amaze the audience and judges. They also earned four world titles, four European crowns and six Soviet Championship gold medals. In 1979 they defected from Russia and became citizens of Switzerland.
The Protopopovs call Lake Placid their summer home and skate at the Olympic Arena from June until November. In the winter, they live in Switzerland.
Their time in Lake Placid is spent teaching, training and inspiring skaters with their dedication to the sport of figure skating.
The Skating Club of Lake Placid is hosting a special figure skating show in their honor this weekend. “A Tribute to the Protopopovs” will feature special guests such as 1948 and 1952 Olympic gold medalist Dick Button and 1972 bronze medalist Janet Lynn Salomon, who will provide speaking tributes.
The Protopopovs will also receive a joint proclamation from the village of Lake Placid and the Town of North Elba, as well as the key to the village of Lake Placid. ORDA president/CEO Ted Blazer will also present the pair with an Olympic Regional Development Authority Executive Office Citation to honor the Protopopov’s dedication and commitment to figure skating.
The show promises to be entertaining, with skaters of all ages and abilities performing. Special guest skaters include 1980 Olympian and three-time Canadian Ice Dance Champion Lorna Wighton-Aldridge, 2007 Swiss Ice Dance champion David De Fazio and 1984 Russian Olympic bronze medalists Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov.
The event begins at 7 p.m. in the 1980 arena. Admission will be $10 for adults and $8 for juniors and seniors. All proceeds from the show will benefit the Skating Club of Lake Placid.
For more information, visit the event site at www.lakeplacidskating.com/events/tribute.php.