The legend of Russian pair skating Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov are visiting Russia after nearly 25 years of absence. The two times Olympic, four times world and European champions and six times champions of the Soviet Union, they have been living in Switzerland since 1979.
They have gladly accepted Russian Sports Committee chief Vyacheslav Fetisov's invitation to visit the 2003 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final that will take place in St Petersburg this next weekend.
"The secret of our longevity in the sport is that we keep in practice, Mr Protopopov has said to RIA Novosti. We have been skating together since 1954, while I went into figure skating in 1946. My first coach was the famed skater Panin-Kolomenkin." The world known pair is expected to go to the Bolshoi to listen to Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin opera. Then they are leaving for their home city of Petersburg.
"We are not in a shape to appear before the sophisticated public of Petersburg. Yet, we would very much like to try the ice of our ice-rink at the Yubileiny sports complex. By the way, it was built in the mid 1960s after we met the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. It was him who gave instructions to build the sports palace," recalled Mr Protopopov.
"Besides we want Russian figure skating fans to see the film we made back 20 years ago. It features 22 routines from the entire figure skating career of ours. It is anthology of our performances of a sort," added Mr Protopopov.
When meeting in Mr Fetisov's office, the guests from Switzerland sang a "hymn," the song music to which was composed by their American friend Julian Lambert. The lyrics to the song were written by the figure skaters themselves. "We are together as long as we live," they sang, the words that can be qualified as that married couple's motto.
Aleksandr Ragulin, a legendary Soviet hockey player and Mr Protopopov's half-cousin, was also present at the meeting.