Host City: Sapporo, Japan
Venue(s): Makomanai Indoor Skating Rink, Sapporo
Date Started: February 6, 1972
Date Finished: February 8, 1972
Format: Each judge ranked each pair by Ordinal Placement from first through last place. The Ordinal Placement for each judge was based on Total Points awarded by that judge to the pairs. The points were based on 25% for the Original Program, and 75% for Free Skating. Final placement was determined by a Majority Placement rule. Thus, if a pair were ranked first by a majority of the judges, that pair was placed first overall, and the process was repeated for each place. Ties were broken by a Subsequent Majority rule, i.e., if the pairs were ranked for the same position by the same number of judges, Majority Placement for the next higher position for each pair determined who was ranked higher. The tiebreakers were then, in order, 1) Number of Majority Placements, 2) Total Ordinals of Majority, 3) Total Ordinals, 4) Total Points.
The Soviet pairs skating leviathan was by now in full force. The Protopopovs – Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov – had won the gold medal in 1964 and 1968. They had been surpassed by younger Soviet pairs, notably Irina Rodnina and Aleksey Ulanov. Rodnina and Ulanov had won the last four European titles and were World Champions in 1970-71. They dominated the competition in Sapporo, winning both the short program and free skate over their teammates, Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrey Suraykin. But there is a bit more to that story. Rodnina was considered the stronger skater of her pair, and Ulanov, who was weary of her mocking him, became romantically involved with Smirnova. They would eventually marry and after 1972, Rodnina and Ulanov split as a pair skating couple. In Sapporo, knowing what was to come, Rodnina, who had once had strong romantic feelings for Aleksey, left the ice in tears after their free skating performance.
Irina Rodnina would soon begin skating with Aleksandr Zaytsev and together they would win the next two Olympic pairs gold medals, six World Championships, and seven European Championships. This would give Rodnina three consecutive Olympic pairs gold medals. She and Zaytsev would later marry, although they eventually divorced.