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A Look at this past Weekend’s A Tribute to the Protopopovs at Lake Placid’s 1980 Rink

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A Tribute to the Protopopovs (Review)

Oleg and Ludmilla Protopopov Honored at A Tribute to the Protopopovs

A Tribute to the Protopopovs, 1980s rink, Lake PlacidIn 1997, two Olympic Champions came to Lake Placid and never left. Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov are icons in the sport of figure skating, and first arrived in Lake Placid in the hopes of training with another influential skating figure, Gus Lussi. Although Lussi had passed away by then, the Protopopovs liked Lake Placid enough to stay.

Now, from June to October, they practice their art and entertain visitors who come to the Olympic Arena, many unsuspecting that they are watching two of the most influential figures in the sport.

On Saturday, September 3, the Protopopovs were honored with “A Tribute to the Protopopovs.” The ice show was hosted by the Skating Club of Lake Placid, and included guests such as town official Art Devlin, US Figure Skating East Coast Vice President Ann O’Keefe, and Emmy award-winning commentator and two-time Olympic champion Dick Button. The evening included video presentations of the Protopopov’s history defining performances, tribute speeches by Dick Button and Janet Lynn Salomon (whose letter was read by the announcer, since she couldn’t be present), and a special performance by the Protopopovs themselves. Skaters of all ages and abilities performed, including 1984 Olympic Bronze Medalists for Russia, Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov. Lorna Wighton-Aldridge, an ice dancer for Canada who competed in the 1980 Olympics and currently lives in Lake Placid, performed a program with former student and 2007 Swiss Ice Dance Champion David Defazio.

The show was well done, and managed to celebrate the achievements of the Protopopovs while presenting young up-and-coming skaters. The video of the Protopopov’s skating program at the Olympics was poignant and provided a view of skating not commonly viewed in today’s skating era of grades of execution and increased focus on technical skills.

The Protopopovs managed a rare feat—a blending of artistry, elegance and perfection of form, while maintaining the integrity of technicality in skating. Not many realize that the Protopopovs developed three new variations of the death spiral, a staple pairs skating move invented in the 1940s. Their versions were called the Cosmic spiral, the Life spiral, and the Love spiral. The Cosmic spiral was invented as a result of an accident at practice, when Ludmila slipped onto the wrong edge and glided on the inside edge instead of the outside edge. After this, they created the Life and Love Spirals. The variations are still practiced by pairs teams today.

At the end of the show, Village Trustee Art Devlin presented the Protopopovs with a key to the Village, and September 3 was declared Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov Day in Lake Placid. This is fitting, since the Protopopovs are still in Lake Placid at that time, practicing in the Olympic Arena. Although many younger skaters might be unaware of the Protpopov’s vast influence on the sport of figure skating, Dick Button summed it up best when he said,

“I didn’t know what style and form looked like until I saw the Protopopovs skate.”

Ludmila Protopopov summed up the reason for their success by saying,

“Skating is our life; we love to skate.”

Christie Sausa is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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1 Comment for “A Look at this past Weekend’s A Tribute to the Protopopovs at Lake Placid’s 1980 Rink”

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