Soviet sportsmen and women who left their country for the West.

Lyudmila Beloussova - Alexander Protopopov - a pair of figure skaters, World and Olympic champions. They defected in 1970s to Switzerland. They participated in all sorts of competitions for professional figure skaters. At the end of 1960 their skating style became outdated, new stars like Irina Rodnina became world leaders. That's why Beloussova and Protopopov started saying that they were discriminated, that referees were biased. They were very well prepared for leaving Russia. Before going abroad in 1968 for a competition series they managed to sell their flat and other belongings and defected.

Yekaterina Gordeyeva and Sergei Grinkov - a married couple, Olympic champions in figure skating. After the Olympic games they signed a contract to work in America. Everything was absolutely legal and official. But two years ago Sergei died. Russian sports authorities say that he was a drug addict and that very day he also drank a bottle of vodka before the training session. That's why he died as a result of a heart attack. Yekaterina lives in the USA together with her little daughter and takes part in competitions.

Victor Korchnoy - chess player, world champion, defected in the 1970s and now lives in the USA. He competed for the chess crown with Anatoly Karpov whom Brezhnev liked very much. All the games in the series were very tense, the score was equal but Karpov won the last game and became the winner of the world championship. Korchnoy said he had felt the pressure of the Soviet authorities, his defeat was pre-planned because he was a Jew. After that defeat Korchnoy used his chance to defect.

Alexander Moguilny - a hockey player from the TsSKA team. He escaped when the USSR National Team was in Switzerland for a competition in 1986, he hid in the US Embassy and asked for asylum. Now he lives in the USA. He was an officer of the Soviet Army and after his defection the Moscow Office of the Military Prosecutor initiated criminal proceedings against him.

Ludmilla Narozhilenko - Olympic champion, a runner, stayed in Sweden and married a Swedish. She did not defect but she left Russia forever, and became a Swedish citizen and now competes for Sweden (her new surname is Endquist). Russian authorities were quite displeased, because she was and is a very good runner, World and Olympic champion but she didn't want to win medals for Russia.

Vladimir Nemtsanov - a diver, in 1976, during the Olympics in Canada he disappeared before the departure and didn't even take his personal belongings. When the Soviet coaches started to investigate the case they found out that it was a love story with one American girl who wanted to marry Nemtsanov. They knew each other for some period of time, exchanged letters. They say, that Vladimir wanted just to have a date with her but she managed to organize it in such a way that he forgot about his plane. His friend found Vladimir later on and had a conversation with him. He reminded Vladimir of his old grandmother who had brought him up. So Vladimir changed his mind and returned to the USSR.

Irina Rodnina - figure skater. After she left amateur sports, she could not find any proper work. In 1992-1993 she left Russia for the USA with her husband who was a businessman. In the USA at the beginning she was just a housewife but then her husband divorced her and she had nothing to do but to give figure skating lessons to make both ends meet and to bring up her two children. At present she visits Russia very often.

Boris Spassky - chess player, world champion. In 1970s Spassky married a French woman, what was quite unusual at that time. When Boris Spassky became a French citizen there was a scandal and after that he was treated as a defector until "perestroika" began.

Such famous sportsmen as Irina Rodnina, Olga Korbut, Pasha Grischuk, Bure, Fyodorov are not considered to be defectors as they signed contracts in the West and asked for permission to leave, although the Soviet-Russian authorities were displeased and in mass media there appeared a lot of criticism aimed against these athletes who "were money-driven when their Motherland was in trouble". Olga Korbut and others were rightly or wrongly accused of being a drunkards. But these sportsmen and women who officially left were not labeled as "defectors".

 

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