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Medal Maker Kovalenko sails into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame

The man behind Australia’s most successful sport at the London Olympics, Victor Kovalenko OAM, will be honoured among Australia’s sporting elite when he is inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame next week.

Kovalenko, who was head coach of the Australian sailing team that won three golds and one silver Olympic medal last year, is recognised for his unyielding commitment to strategy and work rate – a formula that has delivered ultimate success to those who have worked beneath him.

He will receive the highest national sporting honour that can be bestowed when he is officially inducted at The Sport Australia Hall of Fame Annual Induction and Awards Gala Dinner, proudly presented by Etihad Airways, on Thursday, 10 October at Crown Melbourne.

A national 470 Class champion in his native Ukraine, Kovalenko’s greatest impact on the yachting world came following his move to Australia in 1997.

Since then his coaching skills have guided Australians to over 40 international medals, and has directly coached five Olympic golds.

The head coach of Australia’s yachting team for more than a decade, Kovalenko’s London achievements triumphed Australian sailing’s previous best Olympic effort of two gold, a silver and a bronze at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Kovalenko rates his induction into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame amongst his proudest achievements.

“This is very special, as special for me as being granted the Order of Australia Medal. It is the highest recognition in Australian sport,” Kovalenko said of his induction.

“I feel recognition into the Hall of Fame is forever. People have the ability to learn about sport in Australia. I am so proud to be amongst people who were my heroes,” he added.

When asked about his greatest career highlight, Kovalenko said “London was a very special moment. We reached our goal and personally I reached my goals. The Australian sailing team was number one in the world. This makes our days from London very special.”

Not one to rest on his laurels Kovalenko, who will lead our Olympic sailing team to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and is known to be incredibly secretive in his planning and strategising, promises to keep the world guessing about his tactics.

“We need to take a new approach to Rio from London, new philosophies, new principles,” Kovalenko said.

“A lot of teams will be using our successful tools from London. We have to invent something new. We cannot rely on what happened in London.”

Yachting Australia Chief Executive Phil Jones credited Kovalenko’s work in the sport of sailing.

“Victor is a passionate supporter of Australian sport and I’m sure he is honoured by this recognition. We’d like to thank Victor for his ongoing support of competitive sailing and for his efforts in ensuring that Australia remains at the top of the sailing world.”

Kovalenko will be acknowledged as The Sport Australia Hall of Fame General Member, a category established to acknowledge individuals, who have shown excellence and achieved outstanding results in roles supporting sports participants.

Robert de Castella, Chairman of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame Selection Committee acknowledged the significant impact Kovalenko has had on Australian sport.

“All of the people recognised by The Sport Australia Hall of Fame have to contribute more than just being ‘good’ and that is even more so with the case of the general category,” de Castella explained.

“We have to be able to see a change in the trajectory of sport as a result of what they have done.”

“Certainly, it is not just an acknowledgement of years of dedication and good service, their contribution must have improved and changed for the better, the sport or sport in general.”

De Castella recognised Kovalenko as “the one they call the ‘medal maker’, because everything he touched leading up to the London Olympics turned to gold.”

“He put in place an incredibly detailed analytic and strategic plan for producing results, and was uncompromising in his expectations of everyone involved in sailing and the results were really shown through the performance of our sailors.”

“There are some people that come along every now and again who reshape the way things are done and as a result of that we see incredible success and achievement. Victor is one of those people,” de Castella stated.

Established in 1985, The Sport Australia Hall of Fame aims to preserve and celebrate the history of Australian Sport and excite the next generation of Australians to achieve their potential both in sport and in life.

With a vision and values built around the words of the first Inductee and Legend, Sir Donald Bradman AC, The Sport Australia Hall of Fame is determined to carry to all Australians everywhere the symbol of excellence, as represented by its 518 Members across all sports and genders.


Vale Ron Barassi AM

Vale Ron Barassi AM

27/02/1936 – 16/09/2023 The Sport Australia Hall of Fame is mourning the passing of esteemed Member…

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