Viktor Petrenko

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Viktor Petrenko
Victor Pertrenko 2003.jpg
Petrenko in 2003
Personal information
Full nameViktor Vasyliovych Petrenko
Country represented Ukraine
 Soviet Union
Born (1969-06-27) 27 June 1969 (age 52)
Odessa, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
ResidenceNew Jersey, U.S.
Height178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Former coachGalina Zmievskaya
Valentyn Nikolayev
Medal record
Men's figure skating
Olympic Games
Representing the  Soviet Union
Bronze medal – third place 1988 Calgary Singles
Representing Olympic flag.svg Unified Team
Gold medal – first place 1992 Albertville Singles
World Championships
Representing the  Soviet Union
Silver medal – second place 1990 Halifax Singles
Silver medal – second place 1991 Munich Singles
Bronze medal – third place 1988 Budapest Singles
Representing  CIS
Gold medal – first place 1992 Oakland Singles
European Championships
Representing the  Soviet Union
Gold medal – first place 1990 Leningrad Singles
Gold medal – first place 1991 Sofia Singles
Bronze medal – third place 1987 Sarajevo Singles
Bronze medal – third place 1988 Prague Singles
Representing  CIS
Silver medal – second place 1992 Lausanne Singles
Representing  Ukraine
Gold medal – first place 1994 Copenhagen Singles
World Junior Championships
Representing the  Soviet Union
Gold medal – first place 1984 Sapporo Singles

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 moved to the United States in 1994 with his family and associates, living first in Simbury, Connecticut, the site of an international skating center. He works as an International Skating Union (ISU) Technical Specialist, tours professionally, and coaches figure skating.

Early life[edit]

Viktor Petrenko was born in Odessa, Ukrainian SSR, the first of two sons born to engineers Tamara and Vasyl Petrenko.[1] They both got involved in ice skating, training and competing from a young age. His younger brother Vladimir Petrenko also became a competitive skater and the 1986 World Junior champion.[2]

The Petrenko family spoke Russian, which had become dominant in Odessa. It was also 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 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. 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]

Representing the Soviet Union, Petrenko was the 1984 World Junior Champion.[2] He won the bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games,[5] and became one of the youngest male figure skating Olympic medalists.

He also won the bronze medal at the 1988 World Figure Skating Championships. His podium finish came as a surprise, because three former World Champions Brian Orser, Brian Boitano, and Alexander Fadeev were competing in this event. Capitalizing on disastrous short and long programs by Fadeev, Petrenko skated well enough at the championships to earn the bronze.

Disappointment 1989[edit]

Expected to succeed to the position of top skater with the retirement of the Brians, Petrenko lost the Soviet Nationals to a resurgent Fadeev. At Worlds, a fall in the short program combined with a subpar long program cost him a medal. Upstart and eventual career rival Kurt Browning won a surprising victory at this event.

Road to Albertville 1990-1991[edit]

Petrenko won his first two European Championships in 1990 and 1991.[6] He was frustrated in trying to win a World title. He won the short program at both the 1990 and 1991 World Figure Skating Championships, but his mistakes in the long program dropped him to silver both times.

The 1991 decision was particularly close. 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. He lost in a controversial 6-3 split by the judges. Browning completed 3 triple-triples, and edged Petrenko out of the gold because of the superior technical difficulty of his 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. With a free skate that was ranked above American Paul Wylie's by seven of the nine judges, he won the gold medal. It was the first ever for a singles skater from the former Soviet Union.[9] His skate was not his best, and some contested his win. His triple axel-triple toe in both programs gained him scores over both Wylie and European Champion Petr Barna, in spite of the mistakes.

A month later Petrenko 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 placing a disappointing 6th in Albertville). Petrenko used the same free program for the 3rd straight year, with his polish and familiarity gaining high marks for the artistic strength of the program.

Professional career and reinstatement[edit]

Petrenko turned professional following his Olympic win, moving to Las Vegas, Nevada. Ukraine was still struggling economically and he thought he had more opportunity in the US. When the International Skating Union ruled in 1993 that professionals could return to competitive status, Petrenko returned to Odessa, Ukraine and began training for another Olympics.[11]

He defeated another returning competitor, 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] He represented his homeland at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. 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.

Later life[edit]

After 1994 Petrenko competed as a professional. He had many successes, including winning the prestigious Challenge of Champions event three times. It is considered the top professional event. He failed to win the other major professional event, the Landover World Professional Skating Championships, and never placed higher than 3rd.

In 1992, Petrenko had convinced his coach Galina Zmievskaya to take in Oksana Baiul, a 14-year-old Ukrainian orphan who was talented in skating. The coach became both her guardian and coach, having Baiul live with her. Petrenko covered Baiul's expenses. With their guidance, Baiul won the 1993 World Figure Skating Championship and the gold medal at the 1994 Olympic Games.[13][14]

That year Petrenko married Zmievskaya's oldest daughter, Nina Milken, on 19 June 1992. Their daughter Victoria was born on 21 July 1997.[15]

After the 1994 Winter Olympics, Petrenko and Nina, Zmievskaya, Baiul and Viktor's brother Vladimir all left Ukraine and moved to Simsbury, Connecticut. Petrenko and Baiul were invited to train for competition. 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 1996 Petrenko performed as the Scarecrow for the CBS television special The Wizard of Oz on Ice. In March 2001, Petrenko organized the Viktory for Kids ice show in Simsbury, Connecticut. He invited 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 Ukrainian homeland fifteen years earlier. $108,000 was raised, and later that year was used to open The Viktor Petrenko Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Odessa, 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 (DUI) 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 began coaching together at the Ice Vault Arena in Wayne.[20] They have coached American men's figure skater Johnny Weir since the summer of 2007.[21]

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.[22][23] He is an ISU Technical Specialist for Ukraine[24] and was the Assistant Technical Specialist for the men's event at the 2006 Winter Olympics.[25][26] In June 2008, he was elected to the Presidium of the Ukrainian Figure Skating Federation.[27]


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). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-09-01.
  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. ^ "Champions on Ice Entering Stage of Transition". Skate Today. 8 May 2007. Archived from the original on 12 May 2007.
  23. ^ "Champions on Ice Reportedly Closes Up Shop". International Figure Skating. 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 16 December 2008.
  24. ^ "ISU Communication No. 1467". Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  25. ^ "XX Olympic Winter Games 2006 - Men's Short Program: Panel of Judges". Archived from the original on 14 August 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  26. ^ "XX Olympic Winter Games 2006 - Men's Free Skating: Panel of Judges". Archived from the original on 17 April 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  27. ^ "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