Ice skating is not a new phenomenon but figure skating originated somewhere around mid-19th century. Father of modern figure skating – Jackson Haines developed a style in the mid-1860s that has been widely adopted and what we see today is Haines’ free and expressive technique called the “international style.”
In 1908, figure skating was inducted in the Olympics Games for the first time. Since then men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pair skating and ice dancing has been a part of the Winter Olympic Games. The following are a list of the best Olympics skating pairs in the history of the game, presented in descending order.
- 10 Most Popular Olympics Skating Pairs Throughout History
- Madge and Edgar Syers (1908)
- Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul (1960)
- Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov (1964, 1968)
- Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev (1972, 1976 & 1980)
- Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner (1976 & 1980)
- Kitty and Peter Carruthers (1984)
- Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov (1988 & 1994)
- Jamie Salé and David Pelletier (2002)
- Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao (2010, 2002 & 2006)
- Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (2010 & 2014)
10 Most Popular Olympics Skating Pairs Throughout History
Madge and Edgar Syers (1908)
British figure skater Madge and Edgar Syers competed in the 1908 London Summer Olympics and won bronze. Edgar was Madge’s husband and coach. That year for the first time figure skating was part of the Summer Olympic Games and had only 3 contestants. In 1902 Madge Syers by participating in the World Figure Skating Championships became the first woman to enter an all-male event. She won silver and became the first Women’s Olympic Figure Skating Champion ever. Edgar was a singles skater participatory too. At the 1899 World Championships, he won Bronze.
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Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul (1960)
Canadian figure skater, Barbara and Robert teamed up in 1952 and together they won the Canadian national champions five time, World champions four times and also the 1960 Olympic champion. During their Olympics performance, the music to which they were skating skipped a few times. They had to abruptly stop but later were given a chance at a second performance. They skated without a fault and knocked the judges off their feet. Between 1961 and 1964, Barbara and Robert toured with Ice Capades and after retirement became figure skating coaches.
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Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov (1964, 1968)
Russian pair skater, Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov were four-time World champion (1965–1968) and two-time Olympic champion (1964, 1968). The couple known as “The Protopopovs” is credited for bringing ballet to pair skating. Lyudmila before becoming a skating legend was an engineer. She started skating with Protopopov from 1957 and together brought creativity and artistry on ice. Without an official coach, Oleg choreographed their moves while Lyudmila designed their costumes. The Protopopovs were older than most pair skaters and skated to slow melodic classical music.
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Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev (1972, 1976 & 1980)
With Aleksandr Zaitsev, Irina won the 1972 Winter Olympics and together with Aleksandr Zaitsev, she nailed the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Called the most successful pair skater in figure skating history, Irina Rodnina was notorious for winning almost every competition she entered. She has won three successive Olympic Gold and ten successive world figure skating titles.
Fun Fact: In 1973 during the world figure skating championships, when Rodnina and Zaitsev were performing the music suddenly stopped but the pair continued skating without it. This prompted a standing ovation and the winning trophy.
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Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner (1976 & 1980)
This American figure skating stars began skating together when they were very young. Tai was eight, Randy ten and they continued for over forty years. The pair had qualified for the Winter Olympics two times, in 1976 and 1980 respectively but failed to grab a win. In 1980 Tai and Randy were fan favourites but an unfortunate injury forced them to withdraw from the Olympics. The pair had won U.S. Figure Skating Championships five consecutive times (1976–1980), and also the World Figure Skating Championships in 1979. In the year 2008, Tai and Randy announced that they were retiring for two major reasons – they were becoming old and Randy had sustained a neck injury that needed taking care of.
Fun Fact: In 1987, Tai and Randy produced the first ever “How to Ice Skate” video teaching the fundamentals of figure skating.
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Kitty and Peter Carruthers (1984)
American pair skater, Kitty and Peter Carruthers were siblings and together they won Silver at the 1984 Olympic. They were also four-time consecutive U.S. national champion between 1981 and 1984 and one-time bronze medallist at the 1982 World Figure Skating Championships. The sister-brother pair had competed in the 1980 Olympics too. After their 1984 Olympics win they toured with Ice Capades for the next five years. In 1999, Kitty and Peter Carruthers were inducted into the prestigious Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
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Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov (1988 & 1994)
Olympics Skating Pairs Ekaterina and Sergei were one unstoppable predominant duo who won almost every competition they entered. They won Olympic Champion twice and the World Champion four times. They began skating together when they were children, then they fell in love and were married. After that, they toured with “Stars on Ice” for two years. This brilliant pair skaters’ career came to an end when Sergei had a heart attack while rehearsing for a “Stars on Ice” tour. When he died he was only 28-years-old.
Fun Fact: Ekaterina and Sergei were known for their soft movements on the ice. “They didn’t make noise when they skated. They moved so fluidly that their blades whispered over the ice rather than scratching at it.”
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Jamie Salé and David Pelletier (2002)
Canadian Olympics Skating Pairs Jamie and David began skating together in 1998 and won the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Unfortunately, their win was shrouded by controversies which lead to the implementation of a new kind of figure skating scoring system in 2004. Before pairing up both Jamie and David were the strong singles skater. And they often competed in novice and junior levels. Later the couple also did commentary on figure skating television.
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Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao (2010, 2002 & 2006)
These Chinese Olympics Skating Pairs were champions of the 2010 Olympics Games and bronze medallists of 2002 & 2006 Olympic. Together the couple have won World champion thrice (2002, 2003 & 2007), Four Continents Champion three times (1999, 2003 & 2007) and the Grand Prix Final champion six-times (1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006 & 2009).
Fun Fact: Xue and Hongbo were the first Chinese pair team to win some of the above titles
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Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (2010 & 2014)
German Olympics Skating Pairs, Aliona, and Robin were the 2010 and 2014 Olympic bronze medallist. This German power-house has won the European title four times (2007–2009, 2011), the world title five times (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014), the Grand Prix Final champion four times (2007, 2010, 2011, 2013) and the German pair skating title eight times (2004–2009, 2011, 2014). Aliona is currently skating with Bruno Massot.
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