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HOME: Russian / Ukrainian Sports: Russian Figure Skating

Russian Figure Skating



Russian figure skating can be traced back as early as the 19th century. In fact, Russia’s first Olympic champion was a figure skater by the name of Nikolai Panin. Panin won a Gold medal in the “special figures” event at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. A decade later, in the midst of a regime change and a civil war, the need for skating rinks with artificial ice was the last thing on anyone’s mind.


Considered a “bourgeois sport” by the Bolsheviks, figure skating was largely ignored for the next four decades. Not until the 1950’s, when the Soviet Union started to develop a strong sports program, did Russian figure skating start to emerge once more.


The first success, 56 years after Panin’s gold medal in London, came when Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov won Gold in the pairs competition at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Repeating the feat four years later at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, the victory was just a glimpse of the success Russian figure skating would enjoy into the 1970’s and preceding decades.


Here are just a few of the Russian figure skaters who have helped win over 70 World Championships and 20 plus Olympic Gold medals in the past 40 years.

  • Irina Rodnina - Competing with two different partners, Alexei Ulanov and Alexander Zaitsev, she is the only pair skater to win 10 successive World Championships (1969 to 1978) and three successive Olympic Gold medals (1972, 1976, 1980).
  • Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov - Often reputed to be one of the best ice dance pairs of all time, Pakhomova and Gorshkov were 6 time World Champions (1970 to 1974, 1976) and 1976 Olympic Champions in ice dancing.
  • Sergei Volkov - First Soviet World Champion in men's figure skating (1975), beginning a long period of Russian excellence in the discipline.
  • Alexei Urmanov - men’s Gold medalist at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway
  • Ilya Kulik - men’s Gold medalist at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
  • Alexei Yagudin - Four-time men’s World Champion (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002) and men’s Gold medalist at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, USA
  • Maria Butyrskaya - 1999 women’s World Champion Irina Slutskaya - women’s World Champion in 2002 and 2005.
  • Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze - Two-time pairs World Champions (1998, 1999) and Gold medalists at 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze