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Lydia Skoblikova

An Enduring Legacy

Nearing thirty, Skoblikova competed in the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France, but was not able to replicate her previous success. She raced in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters but failed to medal. Although her achievements had already earned her a celebrated place in sports history, her name remains relatively unknown outside her native country, mainly a result of the Cold War context in which she competed and the extent to which the sport has evolved. But her speed skating exploits have not been forgotten. Among her honors, she was inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and was named by Olympic historian and filmmaker Bud Greenspan in 2002 as one of the 25 Greatest Winter Olympians of All Time.

Related Biography: Russian Skier Lyubov Egorova

At the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, Russian cross-country skier Lyubov Egorova tied Skoblikova's record of six Olympic gold medals and was hailed as a sports hero. Her career and reputation, however, were derailed when she failed a drug test at the 1997 World Championships.

Egorova was born in Siberia in 1966 and moved to St. Petersburg as a teen to train on her country's best cross-country course. Described as a late bloomer, she didn't win her first international competition until she was 25. At the 1991 and 1993 World Championships, she won three gold medals. She also was the 1993 World Cup overall champion. Competing for the Unified Team at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, she medaled in all five nordic skiing events, winning three golds and two silvers. She matched Skoblikova's gold count at the 1994 Games, winning three more golds and a silver.

Egorova's downfall came in 1997, when she was caught taking a banned substance, Bromantan, which can enhance performance and mask other drugs. She was stripped of the gold medal she won days earlier and was barred from World Championship competition for two years. Egorova professed shock, insisting that she did not knowingly take Bromantan. Many did not believe her explanation that she accidentally consumed the substance by taking a medication.

Egorova lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and resumed competing at the end of her two-year ban. Although her Olympic record is unaffected, the scandal angered fans and competitors.

Nathan Aaseng, in his book Women Olympic Champions, wrote about Skoblikova's legacy: "First, she was a key member of a Soviet national women's team that pushed the limits of achievement far beyond those of the previous generation.… The Russians' success in turn pushed East Germany, the United States, and other countries into developing female athletes.… Second, Skoblikova stood out as an important contradiction to the stereotype of Soviet female athletes as cold, masculine machines. Her combination of incredible strength and endurance, grace under pressure, willingness to let her emotions show, and pride in her appearance, reinforced the idea that women could be warm and feminine and still enjoy and excel in sports."

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsSpeed SkatingLydia Skoblikova Biography - A Natural Fit, Speed Skating's First Big Star, Challenging Stereotypes, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments