Viktor Petrenko

Viktor Vasyliovych Petrenko (Ukrainian: Віктор Васильович Петренко; born 27 June 1969) is a Ukrainian former competitive figure skater who represented the Soviet Union, the Unified Team, and Ukraine during his career. He is the 1992 Olympic Champion for the Unified Team. Petrenko became the first flagbearer for Ukraine. Petrenko currently lives in the United States and works as an ISU Technical Specialist, tours professionally, and coaches figure skating.

Early life

Viktor was born in Odessa, Ukrainian SSR, the first of two sons born to engineers Tamara and Vasyl Petrenko. His younger brother Vladimir Petrenko was also a competitive skater and the 1986 World Junior champion. The Petrenko family spoke Russian which was dominant in Odessa, as well as a means of inter-ethnic communication throughout the USSR. Viktor Petrenko attended a Russian-speaking school where he chose to study English as a foreign language. Because Ukrainian was not used in his family or his school, he never learned to speak the native language of his own country fluently.

Petrenko was often sick as a young child and doctors suggested to his parents that they put him in a sport in order to improve his strength and stamina, so when he was five years old, they took him to the local ice rink and started him in figure skating. At the age of nine, his talent was noticed by Ukrainian figure skating coach Galina Zmievskaya and she took him on as a pupil at Spartak in Odessa.

Competitive career

For the Soviet Union, Petrenko was the 1984 World Junior Champion and won the bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games. He then went on to win his first two European Championships in 1990 and 1991. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, athletes from former Soviet states went to the Olympics together for the last time in 1992 on a Unified Team. Petrenko competed for this Unified Team and with a free skate that was ranked above American Paul Wylie's by seven of the nine judges, he won the gold medal, the first ever for a singles skater from the former Soviet Union. A month later he went to the 1992 World Championships and won the gold medal there, as well, earning two 6.0's for presentation in his free program and receiving first-place ranking from all nine judges.

Petrenko turned professional following his Olympic win, moving to Las Vegas, Nevada, but when the International Skating Union ruled that professionals could return to competitive status in 1993, he moved back to Odessa, Ukraine and began training for another Olympics. He won his third European Championships in January 1994, competing for the first time for the independent nation of Ukraine, and went on to represent his homeland at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, where it was widely expected that he, 1988 Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano and World Champion Kurt Browning would be the main challengers for medals. After the short program, Petrenko was in ninth place after stepping out of his triple axel and not completing the rotation on his triple lutz, and Boitano and Browning were in eighth and twelfth, respectively. His performance in the free skate pulled him up to a fourth-place finish.

Later life

In 1992, Petrenko convinced his coach Galina Zmievskaya to take in a 14-year-old Ukrainian orphan named Oksana Baiul and become both her guardian and coach, with Petrenko covering Baiul's expenses. With their guidance, Baiul went on to win the 1993 World Figure Skating Championship and the gold medal at the 1994 Olympic Games.

He performed as the Scarecrow for the CBS television special The Wizard of Oz on Ice in 1996.

Petrenko married Zmievskaya's oldest daughter, Nina Milken, on 19 June 1992 and their daughter Victoria was born on 21 July 1997. After the 1994 Winter Olympics, Viktor, Nina, Zmievskaya, Baiul and Viktor's brother Vladimir all left Ukraine and moved to Simsbury, Connecticut, where Petrenko and Baiul were invited to train and Zmievskaya and Vladimir Petrenko joined the coaching staff at the new International Skating Center of Connecticut.

In March 2001, Petrenko organized the Viktory for Kids ice show in Simsbury, Connecticut and invited his celebrity friends from the international figure skating community to perform in order to raise public awareness and funds for the thousands of children still being affected by elevated radiation levels from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that had occurred in his homeland of Ukrainian SSR fifteen years earlier. $108,000 was raised, and later that year was used to open The Viktor Petrenko Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Odessa, Ukraine with state-of-the-art medical technology. In October 2003, Petrenko organized a second "Viktory for Kids" show, this time in Danbury, Connecticut. In addition to Petrenko, the show included Olympic champions Ekaterina Gordeeva (with her daughter, Daria Grinkova [Petrenko's goddaughter]), Ilia Kulik, Evgeni Plushenko, Brian Boitano, and Oksana Kazakova / Artur Dimitriev.

In January 2004, Petrenko was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after crashing his car into a utility pole in Connecticut and refusing to take a breathalyzer test. His record was cleared after he completed an adult alcohol education program.

Petrenko, wife Nina and mother-in-law Zmievskaya left the International Skating Center of Connecticut in 2005 and moved to New Jersey, where they all began coaching together at the Ice Vault Arena in Wayne, New Jersey. They have coached American men's figure skater Johnny Weir since the summer of 2007 and they coached Swiss skater Stéphane Lambiel for several months until injury forced his retirement from competitive skating in October 2008.

Petrenko toured as a performing skater with the US company of Champions on Ice for a record twenty seasons, until COI went out of business after the 2007 season. He is an ISU Technical Specialist for Ukraine and was the Assistant Technical Specialist for the men's event at the 2006 Winter Olympics. In June 2008, he was elected to the Presidium of the Ukrainian Figure Skating Federation.

Programs

Season Short program Free skating Exhibition
1993-1994 Toreador Song from Carmen
by Georges Bizet
"La donna e mobile" from "Rigoletto,"
by Giuseppe Verdi
"Ah fors e lui" from "La Traviata,"
by Giuseppe Verdi
Baila Mi
by Gipsy Kings
1991-1992 Carmen
by Georges Bizet
Raymond overture
by Thomas
Le Cid ballet music
by Jules Massenet
Waltz op.64 No.2
by Frédéric Chopin
I Vespi Siciliani overture
by Giuseppe Verdi
Let's Twist Again
by Chubby Checker
1987-1988 Flames of Paris
by Boris Asafyev
Don Quixote
by Ludwig Minkus
Ave Maria
by Schubert

Results

International
Event 1983–84 1984–85 1985–86 1986–87 1987–88 1988–89 1989–90 1990–91 1991–92 1992–93 1993–94
Olympics         3rd       1st   4th
Worlds   9th 5th 6th 3rd 6th 2nd 2nd 1st    
Europeans   6th 4th 3rd 3rd   1st 1st 2nd   1st
Goodwill Games               2nd      
Skate America   3rd 2nd       2nd 1st     1st
Skate Canada         3rd 2nd          
Nations Cup             2nd       1st
NHK Trophy     3rd       1st 1st      
Moscow News   3rd                  
St. Ivel   2nd            
International: Junior
Junior Worlds 1st                    
National
Ukrainian Champ.                     1st
Soviet Champ. 3rd   2nd 2nd 2nd   2nd 1st 3rd    

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