Written by Roger Vaughan ‘The Medal Maker’, a biographical story of Victor Kovalenko Australia’s most celebrated Olympic sailing coach, was launched at a function at Middle Harbour Yacht Club last night.
On hand to celebrate the occasion with Victor, were his family and friends along with guests from all corners of the sailing community including Australian Sailing Board, Patrons, members of the Australian Sailing Team, former Olympians and many sailing friends.
In October, Kovalenko, who became an Australian citizen on Australia Day in 2003, will also celebrate 20 years since he arrived on Australian soil to take up a sailing coaching position, later to become Head Coach of the Australian Sailing Team.
‘The Medal Maker’ tells Kovalenko’s life story, from his birth in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, to life as a student on the Ukrainian athletic team, to 10 years later becoming an Honorary Master of Sports and subsequently President. It describes his own Olympic sailing aspirations, denied the opportunity because of a boycott on the 1984 Games.
Moving on to coach the 1996 470 Men’s and Women’s Ukraine crews to Olympic Gold and Bronze respectively, Kovalenko first visited Australia with his team in 1991 for the 470 Worlds.
“I stayed to help Jeni Lidgett and Addy Bucek with their 470 Olympic campaign. I loved Australia. I loved the people and the gold and green hills - Australia is my love affair,” Kovalenko declared on his return in 1997.
Struggling to coax results from its 470 sailors, the Australian Yachting Federation (now Australian Sailing) asked Kovalenko to coach its male and female 470 teams, his reputation earning him the sobriquet, ‘The Medal Maker’.
He shunned that moniker, saying it made him uncomfortable, but as the Olympic medal tally continued, Kovalenko became accustomed to it.
The man behind Australia’s most successful results at the 2012 Olympics has received many accolades since arriving in Australia; an Order of Australia medal in 2012 and inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2013.
Married with one son, Kovalenko says he could not have accomplished all he has without the support of his wife, Tatiana. “She looks after everything.”
‘The Medal Maker’ is available in Australia through Boat Books at 38 Oxley Street, St Leonards, NSW, or can be ordered online.
Those outside Australia can order via: www.altamiracreation.com/books
By Di Pearson