Viktor Petrenko Biography

Ice Skater, Athlete (1969–)
Ukranian figure skater Viktor Petrenko won a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.


Born on June 27, 1969, in Odessa, Ukrainian SSR, Viktor Petrenko began serious figure skating training at age 10. Named 1984 World Junior champion, he went on to earn a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics and win three European Championships. Petrenko fostered the career of fellow Ukranian skating champion Oksana Baiul, and in recent years has trained such talents as American Johnny Weir.

Early Years

Viktor Vasyliovych Petrenko was born on June 27, 1969, in Odessa, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. A sickly child, he reluctantly participated in the skating lessons arranged by his parents, Tamara and Vassily, although the exercise helped improve his stamina.

Petrenko's interest in skating took a turn when he started training with coach Galina Zmievskaya at age 10. Under her guidance, he mastered his first triple jump at age 11, and developed the all-around skills that made him one of the sport's most promising young talents.

Competitive Career

Petrenko won the 1984 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sapporo, Japan, at age 14. The jump to the senior level slowed his ascent to the top ranks of the sport, but he made an international splash by claiming the bronze medal at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Alberta, Canada, and also finished third at that year's European and World Figure Skating Championships.

At his peak, Petrenko displayed a breathtaking combination of elegance and athleticism, and thrilled audiences with his humorous routines. He won back-to-back gold medals at the European Championships in 1990 and '91, then achieved his dream by earning a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. That victory was somewhat qualified, as critics maintained that American Paul Wylie had delivered the superior performance, but Petrenko proved he was the cream of the class with another gold medal-winning effort at the World Championships a month later.

Although he turned pro after that season, Petrenko took advantage of a rule change that allowed professionals to return to amateur competition. He claimed his third European Figure Skating Championship in January 1994, but finished a disappointing fourth at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

Coaching and Personal Life

Petrenko married Zmievskaya's oldest daughter, Nina Melnik, in June 1992. She gave birth to their daughter, Victoria, in July 1997.

Petrenko famously fostered the career of fellow Ukranian Oksana Baiul, providing money for equipment while persuading Zmievskaya to train and house the orphaned skater. Baiul went on to win the gold medal at the 1993 World Championships and the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Following the conclusion of that year's Games, Petrenko moved with his wife and mother-in-law to Simsbury, Connecticut, to train and coach at the International Skating Center of Connecticut. He also performed in several touring ice shows, including Champions on Ice, Nutcracker on Ice and Beauty and the Beast.

In 2001, Petrenko organized the "Viktory for Kids" benefit to provide aid for victims still suffering from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. The show raised over $100,000, and Petrenko organized an encore performance in 2003.

In 2005, Petrenko and his family moved to New Jersey, where they began coaching at the Ice Vault Arena in Wayne Township. In recent years, he has served as an International Skating Union (ISU) technical specialist. He has also joined with Zmievskaya to coach elite-level skating talent, including three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir, three-time Ukrainian champion Natalia Popova and 2010 Czech champion Michal Brezina.

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