Famous Olympic Pair Skaters

Some of the best beloved and most-watched events of the Winter Olympics are those of the pair skaters, couples who dazzle and delight us as they float over the ice. Here are the 10 most famous of those couples, and why they are so famous.

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Madge and Edgar Syers

Madge Syers

 Unknown (photographer not credited)/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Florence Madeline "Madge" Cave Syers (1881–1917) was a famous British figure skater in her own right, having entered an all-male figure skating event in 1902 and winning the silver medal, forcing the International Skating Union to create a separate championship for women. For the 1908 Olympics, the first to include figure skating at all, she entered as a pairs skater with her husband and coach, Edgar (1863–1946). They skated away with the Bronze medal; she also easily won the ladies event. 

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Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul

Figure Ice Skating - Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images / Getty Images

Barbara Aileen Wagner (born 1938) and Robert Paul (born 1937) first teamed up in 1952 and by the mid-1950s they were cleaning up the ice. They won the World Championship title four times (1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960); the North American Championships in 1957 and 1959; and the Canadian Championships each year between 1956 and 1960. They took gold in the 1960 Olympics for pair skating, and after the Olympics, toured with the Ice Capades.

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Ludmila Belousiova and Oleg Protopopov

Ludmila Belousiova and Oleg Protopopov

German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0


Oleg Alekseyevich Protopopov (born 1932) and his wife Ludmila Belousiova (1935–2017) are Russian pair skaters who won Olympic and World champion titles in the mid to late 1960s. In 1962, they won silver at the World Championships, the first pair from Russia or the Soviet Union to medal there since 1908. They won gold at the 1964 winter Olympics, beginning the 40-year domination of Soviet/Russian skaters in gold medals. Their first World and European gold medals were in 1965; they took gold at the Olympics in 1968, at 32 and 35 years old, among the oldest skaters there. They defected to Switzerland in 1979 and continued to skate at ice shows and exhibitions well into their seventies. 

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Irina Rodnina

Gold Medal Pairs Skating Winners
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Irina Rodnina (born 1949) is the only pair skater who has won ten successive world figure skating titles and three successive Olympic figure skating gold medals. Her career in gold medals spanned a whopping 12 years, from her 1969 European Championship with Alexei Ulanov to 1980's Lake Placid Winter Olympics, paired with her husband Alexander Zaitsev. Rodina also won eleven European figure skating pairs championships and is considered the most successful pair skater in history.

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Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner

Babilonia And Gardner
Tony Duffy / Getty Images

Tai Reina Babilonia  (b. 1959) and Randy Gardner (b. 1958) began skating together when they were children and were five-time U.S. National Championships gold medal winners between 1975 and 1980. They were considered medal favorites for the 1980 Winter Olympics but had to withdraw after Gardner sustained a thigh injury. Babilonia was the first figure skater of (partial) African American descent to compete for the Olympics.

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Kitty and Peter Carruthers

P&G & Wal-Mart 'Tribute to American Legends of the Ice'
Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

Cailin A. "Kitty" Carruthers (b. 1961) and her adopted brother Peter W. Carruthers (b. 1959) won their first of four United States national titles in 1981 and silvered at the 1983–1984 Winter Olympics. Following that, they skated with the Ice Capades and Stars on Ice for 12 years and appeared in many television specials.

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Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov

Figure Skating - Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images / Getty Images

The Russian skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva (b. 1971) and her partner and husband, Sergei Grinkov (1965–1995) began skating together in 1981 when she was 11 and he was 14; they married ten years later. They won four World Figure Skating Championship gold medals between 1985 and 1990 and took gold at the Winter Olympics in 1988 and 1994. They began touring with "Stars on Ice" in the early 1990s. On November 20, 1995, while practicing for the upcoming "Stars on Ice" tour, Grinkov collapsed and died of a massive heart attack. Gordeeva continued to skate as a single.  

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Jamie Salé and David Pelletier

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Canadian skaters Jamie Rae Salé (born 1977) and David Jacques Pelletier (b. 1974) began their partnership in 1998 after both had skated with other partners. They won gold medals in World, Four Continents, and Canadian Championships, but their one gold at the Winter Olympic Games between 2001–2002 was awarded only after a scandal concerning the judging was resolved. The scandal involved a French judge who changed her vote to a Russian pair to gain gold in another category and the scandal over that led to changes in the way competitions are judged, including the implementation of the Code of Points.  

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Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo

Figure Skating Pairs Short Program - Day 3
Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Shen Xue (b. 1978) and her partner and husband Zhao Hongbo (b. 1973) are Chinese pair skaters who were the first Chinese pair team to win a medal at an International skating event and the World Figure Skating Championships. Together they won their first Chinese championship in 1992 and went on to win gold at three World Championships (2001, 2002, and 2006), and the gold medal in the Winter Olympics of 2009–2010. 

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Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy - German and World Pair Skating Champions

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Robin Szolkowy (b. 1979) is a German pair skater from East Germany, who worked with Ukranian-born German skater Aliona Savchenko. Together they cleaned up on World and European gold medals between 2006 and 2014. Savchenko and Szolkowy's score at the 2009 world figure skating championships was 203.48 points, nearly 17 points above the second place pair team. That wide margin has made the German pair skating team the favorites to win at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where they gained a bronze medal.