Viktor Petrenko

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Viktor Petrenko
Victor Pertrenko 2003.jpg
Personal information
Country represented Ukraine
 Soviet Union
Born (1969-06-27) 27 June 1969 (age 49)
Odessa, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
ResidenceNew Jersey, U.S.
Height178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Former coachGalina Zmievskaya
Valentyn Nikolayev

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[edit]

Viktor was born in Odessa, Ukrainian SSR, the first of two sons born to engineers Tamara and Vasyl Petrenko.[1] His younger brother Vladimir Petrenko was also a competitive skater and the 1986 World Junior champion.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]


Rising star 1984-1988[edit]

For the Soviet Union, Petrenko was the 1984 World Junior Champion.[2] He won the bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games,[5] became one of the youngest male figure skating Olympic medalists. He also won the bronze medal at the 1988 World Figure Skating Championships. The former was a major surprise as all expected the 3 Former World Champions Brian Orser, Brian Boitano, and Alexander Fadeev to compromise the podium, but capatilizing on disaesterous short and long program by Fadeev, Petrenko skated superbly in all 3 phases to earn the bronze.

Disappointment 1989[edit]

Expected to take over as top skater with the retirement of the Brians, Petrenko first lost the Soviet Nationals to a resurgent Fadeev. At Worlds a fall in the short program combined with a subpar long program left him off the podium, while upstart and his eventual career rival Kurt Browning won a surprising victory.

Road to Albertville 1990-1991[edit]

He then went on to win his first two European Championships in 1990 and 1991.[6] He was frustrated in his attempts at a World title though. He won the short program at both the 1990 and 1991 World Figure Skating Championships but mistakes in the long program dropped him to silver both times. The 1991 decision was particularly close as Petrenko skated a strong program, only stepping out of a triple loop, and omitting a planned triple axel-triple toe which he turned into a triple-double, but lost in a controversial 6-3 split when Browning unleashed a historic skate with 3 triple-triples, edging Petrenko based on the superior technical difficulty of the program.

Olympic and World Champion 1992[edit]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991,[7] athletes from former Soviet states went to the Olympics together for the last time in 1992 on a Unified Team.[8] 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.[9] His skate was not his best, and some contested his win, but the triple axel-triple toe in both programs kept him over both Wylie and European Champion Petr Barna, in spite of the mistakes. 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.[10] In doing so he finally defeated his arch nemesis Kurt Browning who took silver (after being a disappointing 6th in Albertville). He used the same free program for the 3rd straight year, the polish and familiarity showing in the artistic strength of the program.

Professional career and reinstatement[edit]

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.[11] He defeated another returning great Brian Boitano to win Skate America with a commanding 8 triple long program. He won his third European Championships in January 1994, competing for the first time for the independent nation of Ukraine,[12] 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 strong performance in the free skate pulled him up to a fourth-place finish, and might well have been enough to defend his title had he delivered a clean short program.

He had many successes as a professional including winning the prestigious Challenge of Champions event which is considered the top professional event 3 times, but failed to win the other major professional event, the Landover World Professional Skating Championships, in fact never placing higher than 3rd.

Later life[edit]

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.[13][14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

Petrenko skates at an exhibition program at the 2002 Champions on Ice show in Buffalo, New York

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.[17] 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.[18] His record was cleared after he completed an adult alcohol education program.[19]

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.[20] They have coached American men's figure skater Johnny Weir since the summer of 2007[21] and they coached Swiss skater Stéphane Lambiel for several months until injury forced his retirement from competitive skating in October 2008.[22][23]

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.[24][25] He is an ISU Technical Specialist for Ukraine[26] and was the Assistant Technical Specialist for the men's event at the 2006 Winter Olympics.[27][28] In June 2008, he was elected to the Presidium of the Ukrainian Figure Skating Federation.[29]


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


Event 83–84 84–85 85–86 86–87 87–88 88–89 89–90 90–91 91–92 92–93 93–94
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
Ukrainian Champ. 1st
Soviet Champ. 3rd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st 3rd


  1. ^ "Viktor Petrenko Biography".
  2. ^ a b "ISU World Junior Figure Skating Champions" (PDF). International Skating Union. Archived from the original (pdf) on 9 December 2008.
  3. ^ "Viktor Petrenko: "You want to do something in your life to help other people"". Ukrainian Weekly. 8 April 2001.
  4. ^ "Petrenko Still Has Golden Touch". 29 December 2008.
  5. ^ "ISU Olympic Winter Games Figure Skating Results" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  6. ^ "ISU European Figure Skating Championships" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  7. ^ "Reform, Coup and Collapse: The End of the Soviet State". BBC.
  8. ^ "Albertville: A United Feeling of Ambivalence". New York Times. 25 February 1992.
  9. ^ "Petrenko Gets a Gold, Wylie a Silver Surprise". New York Times. 16 February 1992.
  10. ^ "Petrenko Captures More Gold and Feels on Top of the World". New York Times. 29 March 1992.
  11. ^ "Figures on Ice; To Petrenko, Olympics Worth More Than Gold". New York Times. 6 February 1994.
  12. ^ "Figure Skating; Pair Dance a Rumba to Remember". New York Times. 21 January 1994.
  13. ^ "2007 Profile of Viktor Petrenko" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "On the Ice with Oksana Baiul; A Skater's Credo: Only Angels Can Fly". New York Times. 7 April 1994.
  15. ^ "Viktor Petrenko - Chronology".
  16. ^ Rabinovitz, Jonathan (2 February 1997). "When Olympic Champions Moved In, They Put Simsbury on the World Map". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Petrenko Skates in Viktory for Kids". Archived from the original on 11 May 2008.
  18. ^ "Viktor Petrenko Charged with DUI". CBC Sports. 29 January 2004.
  19. ^ "DUI Charge Cleared if he Completes Program". ESPN. 15 March 2004.
  20. ^ Petrenko Brings Added Prestige to Ice Vault Archived 4 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Weir Last US Medal Hope".[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Patinage artistique: Lambiel change de coach". 6 June 2008. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008.
  23. ^ "Lambiel announces retirement from skating". IceNetwork. 16 October 2008. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  24. ^ "Champions on Ice Entering Stage of Transition". Skate Today. 8 May 2007. Archived from the original on 12 May 2007.
  25. ^ "Champions on Ice Reportedly Closes Up Shop". International Figure Skating. 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008.
  26. ^ "ISU Communication No. 1467". Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  27. ^ "XX Olympic Winter Games 2006 - Men's Short Program: Panel of Judges". Archived from the original on 14 August 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  28. ^ "XX Olympic Winter Games 2006 - Men's Free Skating: Panel of Judges". Archived from the original on 17 April 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  29. ^ "Ukrainian Figure Skating Federation". Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008.

External links[edit]


Olympic Games
Preceded by
honors created
Flagbearer for  Ukraine
Lillehammer 1994
Succeeded by
Andriy Deryzemlya