The 1980 U.S. Olympic figure skating team dazzled the crowd and competition judges en route to Charles Tickner’s bronze medal in men’s figure skating and Linda Fratianne’s Olympic women’s singles silver medal.
A 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Figure Skating Reunion Gala has been set for Tuesday, February 18th at the Lake Placid Olympic Center. » Continue Reading.
As many as 500 figure skaters of all levels are set to take to the Olympic Center ice to compete in the annual Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships. The competitions in men and ladies singles and pairs begin Thursday, June 28, in both the 1932 Rink and Herb Brooks Arena and continue through Sunday, July 1.
Tickets for the 61st Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships are available at the Olympic Center box office and at the doors of both the 1932 Rink and Herb Brooks Arena. Single day tickets are $12/adults and $7/juniors & seniors. All event tickets are available for $30/adults and $18/juniors & seniors. » Continue Reading.
U.S. Figure Skating has announced the selection of Lake Placid as the host city for 2017 Skate America. Competition is scheduled for November 24-26, 2017, and will be held at the historic 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.
Lake Placid, which hosted the inaugural Skate America in 1979, has put on the event four times (1979, 1981-82, 2009). The state of New York has hosted Skate America six times. U.S. Figure Skating is expected to work with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) to plan the event. » Continue Reading.
The Annual Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships took place in late June at the Olympic Center, bringing approximately 400 skaters from six countries to Lake Placid. The competition took place in the 1932 and 1980 arenas and was open to the public for a small admission fee, allowing visitors the opportunity to watch the figure skating events live.
This year, there were six countries represented in the competition as a whole, several of which were in the Senior Ladies category alone. » Continue Reading.
The sport of Figure Skating has changed quite a bit in the past decades. Now, the inaugural World Figure Championship & Figure Festival from August 25-29 in Lake Placid is poised to create a new skating history.
Before 1990, figures were recognized as the essential component of figure skating in both training and competition. Figures are also known as school figures, or colloquially “patch”, to represent the patch of ice each skater was allotted to practice their figures. During practice, skaters would use “scribes”, metal devices that resemble a large protractor, to imprint into the ice the outline of a perfect circle. The skater would then follow the imprint on the ice by tracing the pattern with their blade. » Continue Reading.
The Lake Placid Olympic Museum, located in the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, has announced the opening of their new, permanent exhibit, “Sonja Henie: Perfection on Ice.” Sonja Henie won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies figure skater, to include three Olympic crowns and six European championship titles.
Her innovative skating techniques and glamorous demeanor transformed the sport permanently and confirmed its acceptance as a legitimate sport in the Olympic Winter Games. » Continue Reading.
Featuring future Olympic hopefuls, past Olympians, and a tribute to skater Sonia Henie on the same ice where she earned an Olympic Gold in 1932, will be featured in a “Lake Placid Holiday Dreams on Ice” show at the 1932 Rink at the Olympic Center at 5:00 p..m. on Sunday, December 8, 2013.
The skating show caps off a weekend full of activities and events that comprise the Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll, and will both commemorate historic Olympic moments and celebrate the holiday season. Special guests include two-time Olympic Champions Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov, Olympians Karen Courtland Kelly and Patrick Kelly, as well as many figure skaters from throughout the region. » Continue Reading.
After three days of competition, two fireworks displays, and one giant skating party, the Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Skating Club of Lake Placid brought the 2013 Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships to a close. Approximately 2,000 synchronized skaters came to the village of Lake Placid for the competition, and competed at the Olympic Center from January 31st through February 2nd. The Championships were a qualifying event, and the teams who placed move on to the US Synchronized Skating Championships in Plymouth, Michigan from February 27 – March 1. » Continue Reading.
Figure skating has always had an important home in Lake Placid. Early on, the Sno Birds popularized this summer retreat, and Melville and Godfrey Dewey help win the campaign for the 1932 Winter Olympics. The Skating Club of Lake Placid was formed, and after 1932, famous skaters trained there with legendary coach Gus Lussi.
When Lake Placid again hosted the Olympics in 1980, skating dominated, with state-of-the-art facilities that have continued to be used by stars like Dorothy Hamill and Sarah Hughes, and helped give rise to Scott Hamilton’s Stars on Ice. For more than one hundred years, the Lake Placid community has worked together to support figure skating and skaters in this quiet Adirondack village. Local winter sports writer Christie Sausa tells this history in Lake Placid Figure Skating: A History (History Press, 2012). » Continue Reading.
All are invited to attend the 4th annual “Skate into the New Year” skating party on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, a benefit for the Lake Placid Food Pantry, on December 31 from 10:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m.
“Skate into the New Year” began in 2008, the brainchild of Adirondack Almanack contributor Christie Sausa, a local skater who responded to complaints that there was “nothing to do” in Lake Placid on New Year’s Eve. The substance-free family-friendly event was a huge success the first year, with approximately 600 skaters in attendance. » Continue Reading.
In 1962, Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov arrived at the World Championships, and were spotted by Dick Button, who was commentating for ABC sports. On Saturday night, the third of September 2011, he sat next to them during the Tribute show in their honor at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.
In an interview before the show, Button recounted what is special about the Protopopovs. “They had tunnel vision”, he said, “They are a vision of classical skating personified, skating at its very best. The Protopopovs started a generation of style on ice, which was carried on by skaters like John Curry and Janet Lynn”. After that championship in 1962, the Protopopovs skated to two Olympic titles and four world titles. As professionals, they skated in the World Professional championships, (capturing 4 titles) and performing with companies including the Leningrad Ice Ballet and the Ice Capades.
The Protopopovs defected from the Soviet Union in 1979, becoming citizens of Switzerland. They divide their time between Switzerland, their winter home, and Lake Placid, where they skate from June until October in the Olympic Center.
Their eventual landing in Lake Placid was very sudden. In 1997, the Protopopovs found themselves in the Olympic town after being told of the excellent facilities.
“Our friends were telling us, ‘you must go to Lake Placid, they have beautiful ice arenas’”, said Ludmila Protopopov. “We also wanted to learn from Gus Lussi, who was coaching there. Unfortunately, he had passed away, but when we came to Lake Placid we stayed forever”.
Ironically, Button’s story was similar.
“Everyone told my father, if you want him to get better at skating, send him to Lake Placid”, remembers Button. “Gus Lussi was considered the coach to work with, and we had a magical relationship…. I am still tied to Lake Placid, my family owns homes here”.
Watching the older couple skating on the rink, it is not apparent that they played an important part in the evolution of skating. Not many realize that the Protopopovs were the creators of a variation of the death spiral. The death spiral is a skating move, defined as “an element of pair skating performed with the man in a pivot position, one toe anchored in the ice…. holding his hand, the woman circles her partner on a deep edge with her body almost parallel to the ice”. The original death spiral was first executed in the 1940s, but the Protopopovs created their variations, the Cosmic, Life, and Love spirals, in the 1960s.
“It was a mistake on practice…I slipped from an outside edge to an inside edge. That is what we named the Cosmic spiral.
After the Cosmic spiral, (performed on the backward inside edge,) the Protopopovs invented the Life spiral (forward inside) and the Love spiral (forward outside).
Throughout their careers, whether they are competing, performing in shows, or practicing, the Protopopovs possess a unique dignity and class, both on and off the ice. Dick Button, himself a skating legend, has nothing but compliments for the pair.
“The Protopopovs were the first to be very different. They had a classical, pure style of skating; they were musical and uniform in their skating together. They are classic, balletic skaters; utter perfection. You don’t see skaters like them anymore”.
Button certainly knows what he’s talking about; the Emmy award-winning commentator has been involved in skating since the 1940s, when he was competing himself. He became the 1948 and 1952 Olympic champion, and 5 time World champion. His commentary career started in the 1960s, when he provided commentary for ABC sports. He continued to be a celebrity in figure skating, commentating at most major competitions, organizing several skating shows on television, and serving as figure skating’s most knowledgeable figure. Oleg Protopopov, despite his many achievements, still considers Dick Button an inspiration.
“When I was a boy, my mother brought me an American magazine with Dick Button on the cover. He was doing a split jump, and his position was so extended, his toes were pointed…my mother said, ‘one day you must skate better than him’. It never happened’ ”. Dick Button, however, considered them to have surpassed his skating achievements.
“After the Protopopovs skated, I learned what position and quality truly meant in figure skating”.
Both the Protopopovs and Button believed that skating should be an art form, equal to dance, music, and other creative forms of artistic expression. While current audiences seem to expect a sport instead of art, Button and Protopopov assert that attention should be given to the artistic side of the sport as well, not just the technical.
“What I encourage skaters to do is to take what they learned in a ballet class, or other sort of dance class, and incorporate it in skating”, said Button. “Figure skating can take elements of dance and use it…. it is interesting for me to note where figure skating has gone and where it hasn’t gone over the years”.
But the Protopopovs have held up artistry over the years, and continued skating. Even after Oleg’s stroke in 2009, they continued skating. Only a few weeks after his stroke, the Protopopovs were seen at the rink, Ludmila Protopopov patiently helping Oleg to re-learn how to skate. Skating served as his rehabilitation, and the Protopopovs were well practiced enough to perform a short exhibition performance in the tribute show on September 3rd.
Why do they continue skating? Certainly the Protopopovs are legends, and can retire if they chose. When asked why they continue to skate, Ludmila stated it succinctly:
“I love the music, the flow. Skating is our life”.
Lake Placid is a mecca for elite athletes, and often hosts athletes from different countries and sports. Two of these are Olympic legends, and train tirelessly from June until early November in the Olympic Center.
I am referring to the legendary Protopopovs. Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov are the 1964 and 1968 Olympic champions in Pairs Skating for Russia, and call Lake Placid their home.
This year, the Skating Club of Lake Placid is hosting a show in their honor. “A Tribute to the Protopopovs” will take place on Saturday, September 3rd in the 1980 arena. Joining local skaters of all ages and levels will be special guests, such as Dick Button. Himself a Lake Placid figure skating icon (Button trained in Lake Placid with Gus Lussi in the 30s and 40s), Button will be on hand to help celebrate the achievements of the husband and wife pairs team.
Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov’s rise to figure skating prominence was not effortless. The Soviet Skating Association discounted them as “too old” for serious training, even though they were only in their teens. Not to be limited by the Association, the Protopopovs trained independently, often skating outdoors in sub-zero temperatures. Their dedication paid off when they won the 1964 and 1968 Olympic title in Pairs skating, as well as four World Championship titles from 1965-1968.
After the Olympics, they were routinely rejected by the Soviet Skating Associations because of their derivative style. The Leningrad Ice Ballet did not want to give them a job, because they were too athletic, and the skating federation did not want them because they were too artistic. They turned professional, and started touring professionally throughout the United States. The Soviet Skating Federation’s continued ill treatment, however, was constant. For example, they skated in a show at Madison Square Garden for the fee of 10,000 dollars, but all they were allowed to keep was 53 dollars. In 1979, they defected from the Soviet Union and became citizens of Switzerland; this change of citizenship permitted them to tour with the Ice Capades.
The love of their sport is evident, and now in their 70s, the Protopopovs continue training every day. Nothing is able to stop them from participating in their sport; not even a stroke. Oleg Protopopov suffered from a stroke in 2009, but a few weeks after the event started skating again. He is still skating, and has regained his skills. Residents of Lake Placid, it is not uncommon to see the Protopopovs walking or riding their bikes through town, or training on one of the 3 ice surfaces. After November, the Protopopovs travel to Switzerland and Hawaii, skating in Switzerland and surfing in Hawaii. No matter what, the Protopopovs always strive to keep healthy and fit.
The show will be a display of all ages and abilities. Admission is $10.00 for Adults (13-64), $8.00 for Youth (7-12) and Seniors (65+). Children age 6 and under are free. All proceeds benefit the Skating Club of Lake Placid. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.
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