Considering his record and his nickname as ‘The Medal Maker’, which became the title of his biography, Victor Kovalenko more than belongs alongside the best Australian sporting coaches of this century, even as 95% of the Australian public has never heard of him, even though he’s got an Order of Australia Medal, he’s twice been named AIS Coach of the Year, and he’s been inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
If you need any more proof, just look at the damn cover of that Book:
Clarkson, Bennett, Bellamy, Postecoglou – Kovalenko belongs in the category of best Australian coaches this century, and that’s a genuine fact.
A native of the Ukraine, Kovalenko had great success in Atlanta coaching the Ukraine to Gold in the Men’s 470 class and Bronze in the Women’s 470 class, before he was enticed to Australia in 1997 to coach Australia’s sailors for the Sydney Olympics, and for context, Sailing was a sport in which Australia, despite being girt by sea, had only won 3 Gold Medals in, the last of which came in the old Star and Dragon classes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which the sailing was held in the Bay of Kiel.
Since ‘The Medal Maker’ arrived Down Under at the turn of the millennium and ultimately took over as the coach of the AIS Sailing Program, Australian sailors have won at least 19 World Championships, and have now won 10 Gold Medals, 6 Silver Medals and a Bronze medal in Olympic Sailing, with Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan’s triumph in the 470 class this afternoon giving Kovalenko his 10th Olympic medal as a coach in the 470 class, 7 of them being Gold Medals (6 with Australia).
We should remember that despite having every excuse to call it a day after Rio, Kovalenko, who would’ve turned 70 on the original date of the 470 class Medal Race in Tokyo last year (August 5), was convinced by his wife to stay on for the Tokyo Games in an attempt to go one better with the multiple World Championship winning pair of Belcher & Ryan, in what will be the last Olympic appearance for the individual 470 classes before they are replaced by the mixed two person dingy for Paris 2024.
Mat and Will didn’t let anyone down, and won the Medal Race despite only having to show up and start just to confirm the Gold Medal.
The grand list of Victor Kovalenko’s Olympic medal winning 470 class crews
Seoul 1988 with the Soviet Union: Larisa Moskalenko & Iryna Chunykhovska win Bronze in the Women’s 470 class.
Atlanta 1996 with the Ukraine: Yevhen Braslavets & Ihor Matviyenko win Gold in the Men’s 470 class, Ruslana Taran & Olena Pakholchik win Bronze in the Women’s 470 class
Sydney 2000 with Australia: Tom King & Mark Turnbull win Gold in the Men’s 470 class, Jenny Armstrong & Belinda Stowell win Gold in the Women’s 470 class.
I should note that the Double Gold in Sydney is what led to Kovalenko being nicknamed ‘The Medal Maker’ in the first place, given he’d only coached both pairs for 3 years.
Beijing 2008: Nathan Wilmot & Malcolm Page win Gold in the Men’s 470 class, Elise Rechichi & Tessa Robinson win Gold in the Women’s 470 class.
London 2012: Mathew Belcher & Malcolm Page win Gold in the Men’s 470 class, with Page becoming the first Australian sailor to defend an Olympic title, as Australia led the Medal Table in Sailing (3 Gold & 1 Silver) for the first time in Olympic history.
Rio 2016: Mathew Belcher & Will Ryan win Silver in the Men’s 470 class.
Tokyo 2020: Mathew Belcher & Will Ryan win Gold in the Men’s 470 class.
7 Gold Medals, 1 Silver Medal and 2 Bronze Medals, with Belcher the most successful 470 class sailor in Olympic history before the class is discontinued after the Tokyo Olympics, and the most successful Australian sailor in Olympic history.
Bart Cummings was the Cups King, Victor Kovalenko is The Medal Maker, and on that note, happy 71st birthday tomorrow Mr Kovalenko, and on behalf of all Australian Olympic tragics, if this is your last Games, we say thankyou for everything!