LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The most enduring pairs team in figure skating history is no more.
According to Russian news reports, Ludmila Belousova died Friday in a Swiss hospital with her husband and long-time skating partner, Oleg Protopopov, at her side. She was 81.
As a team, the Protopopovs captured the gold medal at the 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics and also were four-time world champions and four-time European champions.
They also endeared themselves to skaters in Lake Placid where, at the recommendation of a Russian friend, they began training for five months a year beginning in 1997. They skated in an exhibition and were so well received that they decided to return every year.
“They liked staying and talking with other skaters,” Larisa Selezneva, 1984 Olympic bronze medalist in pairs, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise . “I know my students liked being able to practice on the same ice as them when they were in Lake Placid, they brought so much inspiration to the ice.”
Even in their 70s, the Protopopovs trained for four hours a day nearly every day at the arena made famous by coach Herb Brooks and the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
“We dedicate our life for skating,” Belousova told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. “Everything revolves around skating.”
Completely self-taught — Oleg choreographed the routines and Ludmila stitched the costumes — the Protopopovs were the first skaters to perform side-by-side jumps and…