The Medal Maker


Photos: Thom Touw
The Australian Olympic team's Head Coach Victor Kovalenko discusses his career and his approach
One of the not so secret weapons behind the success of the Australian Olympic team is their Ukrainian born Head Coach, Victor Kovalenko. In true Aussie tabloid style Kovalenko has been dubbed ‘the medal maker’ thanks to his impressive record. Since Seoul in 1988, he has contributed to five Gold medals and three Bronze, twice scoring ‘double gold’ with the Australian team – in Sydney with Tom King/Mark Turnbull and Jenny Armstrong/Belinda Stowell and in Beijing with Nathan Wilmot/Malcolm Page and Elise Rechichi/Tessa Parkinson. There are probably other coaches out there with a medal tally approaching his score, but in the circles he operates Kovalenko is considered something of a guru, more than a mere coach. Certainly you perceive this when you meet him – he has an endearing sparkle and a modesty that instantly warm you to him, but also has the piercing insight of a top psychologist and, one suspects, the ability to probe alarmingly deep into your soul. According to American Morgan Reecer, who coaches the British 470 squad, and has observed him since 1985 when Kovalenko was coaching the Soviet Union team, Kovalenko is unique in that he trained from the outset as a coach. “To be honest it probably wouldn’t matter if he was a sailing coach or a track coach. He has a very good mental style for sailors. Some sailors like Nathan Wilmot took years to finally buy into Victor’s system.” Heralding from Dnipropetrovsk, Kovalenko as a sailor competed as a crew in the Flying Dutchman and also the 470, and was set to go the Olympic Games in Los Angeles as part of the Soviet Union team until Soviet Union chose to boycott it. But this incident galvanised his move from sailor to coach. So what was it like being part of the Soviet team? “It was

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