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Community & Business

20 January, 2023

The “medal maker” is our Australia Day Ambassador

He’s one of the world’s great Olympic sailing coaches, and he’s coming to Gilgandra for Australia Day.

Over the course of his career, Victor Kovalenko OAM, has led athletes to win a total of no fewer than 10 Olympic medals, and more than 18 world championship titles. Revered as the most successful Olympic sailing coach in history, Mr Kovalenko will be Gilgandra’s 2023 Australia Day Ambassador, speaking at the shire’s celebrations next week.

Born in Ukraine, Mr Kovalenko began sailing at a young age. He coached the Soviet Union’s 470 women’s team to an Olympic bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games, and then went on to coach the Ukraine’s 470 men’s and women’s teams to gold and bronze medals at the 1996 Olympic Games; this country’s first-ever sailing medals.

In 1997, Mr Kovalenko left the Ukraine and came to Australia to coach the Australian 470 sailors. With only three years of preparation for the 2000 Olympics, the coach managed to lead the team to Australia’s first-ever Olympic sailing medal, gold for his women’s team.

Only an hour later, his men’s team also took-out gold in their event. The now-Australian citizen subsequently brought his family over from the Ukraine, and has since continued his long and successful coaching career.

In addition to Olympic medals and world titles, Mr Kovalenko was also named Australia’s Coach of the Year for both 2008 and 2012, and received his OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) in 2012 for services to sailing. In 2017, Mr Kovalenko he was honoured in the Sailing Hall of Fame.

In being announced as Gilgandra’s 2023 Australia Day Ambassador, Mr Kovalenko said that he was looking forward to visiting the region and speaking with the local community.

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