Athlete


Date Inducted: 10 Oct 2013
Sport: Coach - Sailing
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Victor Kovalenko OAM - Coach - Sailing

Victor Kovalenko dubbed the “Medal Maker” by his peers, was a national 470 Class champion in his native Ukraine, yet his greatest impact on the yachting world came when he moved to Australia in the early nineties.

Since then his coaching skills have guided Australians to 40 international medals, seven of them Olympic gold. Head coach of Australia’s yachting team for more than a decade, Victor saw the fullest fruits of his work in London 2012 when our yachtsmen and women claimed three gold and one silver. He is now coaching the next team of Australian Olympic hopefuls at Rio.

Born (05/08/1950), Victor grew up in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. He was a competitive sailor from an early age and won national championships in both the 470 class and the Flying Dutchman.  

He was denied a chance to sail in the Olympics by the boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, but that accident of fate fired a hunger for Olympic success which he has fulfilled many times over as a coach. 

He coached Ukraine to silver at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the following year was invited by the Australian Yachting Federation to coach the Australian 470 crews.

Under his guidance both the men’s and women’s teams took gold at the Sydney Olympics. 

He was appointed national head coach and AIS sailing coach immediately after the games. Success did not come at Athens in 2004 but in Beijing in 2008 Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page took gold in the men’s 470 class and Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson took gold in the women’s 470.

The result was even better in London in 2012 with three gold and a silver medal delivering Australia’s best ever yachting medal haul and elevating Australia to head the yachting medal tally for the first time in its history. 

Between those successes he has coached Australian sailors to a string of international regatta wins and world titles.

In 2012 he received an Order of Australia Medal, a proud tribute from a country he has come to love. 

Victor Kovalenko continues to coach Australian sailing teams with the 2016 Rio Olympics a special goal. Scores of crews have already benefited from his wisdom and guidance, many more will.  

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When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his of her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.