Petrenko, Bonaly return March 13

• An exclusive interview with figure skating champ Viktor Petrenko

Champions for Charity Sixth Annual Boot Skatin’ Benefit for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital—Rockford’s greatest charity on ice—returns to the Carlson Arctic Ice Arena on Perryville Road at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 13.

Olympic gold medalist and former world champion Viktor Petrenko, nine-time French National Champion and five-time European Champion Surya Bonaly, and former world champion pairs team Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny, will hit the ice for two shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Proceeds from tickets ($20, $30) benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Tickets can be purchased by calling 815-282-4615.

The event, which had been held at the Rockford MetroCentre the past two years, has raised more than $36,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Many local skaters, including high school seniors Melissa Lind and Amanda Bruening, will share the ice with the international skating icons to help raise money for St. Jude’s.

The skating show will be held in conjunction with Q98.5’s two-day March 12-13 radiothon from the center court of CherryVale Mall to benefit St. Jude’s. Radiothon hours are 5 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday, March 12, and 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday, March 13. Call line is 1-888-287-HOPE (4673). Bonaly and Petrenko will be at the radiothon starting around 2 p.m., Saturday to present an $8,000 check to St. Jude’s from last year’s benefit show.

The Rock River Times again this year had the honor of an exclusive interview with Viktor Petrenko, which is included in this article. An exclusive interview with Surya Bonaly conducted March 9 will appear in the next issue of The Rock River Times.

Petrenko, 34, who began skating at age 5 to help strengthen his body to overcome a debilitating illness, was the No. 1 ranked men’s skater in the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1992, he became the first men’s skater since Robin Cousins (Petrenko’s hero) in 1976 to sweep the Olympic and World gold medals, a feat that has not been matched since.

Petrenko was crowned Olympic champion shortly after the dissolving of the former Soviet Union, his home country. He said in last year’s interview that it was an uneasy feeling standing on the podium representing a commonwealth—Ukraine—he had not grown up in.

Petrenko joined TRRT on the phone from his home in Simsbury, Conn., March 8 to discuss the charity event and to offer some tips and insight on skating:

TRRT: This is your third year coming to Rockford to perform in this event. What keeps you coming back, year after year?

Petrenko: I think it’s done for a good cause. It’s fun to do the show. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it. For me, it’s a big honor.

TRRT: Can you discuss what kind of experience you’ve had here in the past?

Petrenko: We had great response from the audience and from everyone who did the show. We all (both champions and local skaters) just participate in one show. That’s what I think makes this event so unique. You feel special when it’s done for a good cause. When it’s a charity, you realize you donate your performance and may be saving someone else’s life, too. We all do the same thing together—we’re like a team.

TRRT: When you’re not performing during the show, do you have time to catch any of the other acts on the ice?

Petrenko: I see funny group numbers from the adults and from the kids’ groups, too. It’s fun to watch.

(For those who have never attended, comedy is a key part of the show).

TRRT: Last year you performed your fan favorite “Mambo No. 5” routine. What can fans expect from you this year?

Petrenko: I try to bring some other numbers. I probably won’t perform it (Mambo No. 5) unless it is in high demand.

(Petrenko’s “Mambo No. 5” is a unique performance in which he skates with a female doll attached to his costume, done to Lou Begga’s popular song of the same name).

TRRT: What’s the key to connecting with the audience?

Petrenko: I do my skating as best as I can. I have a great team around me. It’s no key. It may look easy, but it’s hard work behind it.

TRRT: Why should people who otherwise wouldn’t attend a figure skating event attend this Champions for Charity event?

Petrenko: They should attend this event because it’s an interesting event because it combines two things together—art and sport. When it’s done for charity, you feel better, and when you come to the show, you become a part of it.

TRRT: You’ve said in the past that you look at professional skating as “artistry on ice.” Do you have any new programs in the works?

Petrenko: I’m currently preparing for the Champions on Ice tour—we start first week of April. I have two programs. One, “Hotel California,” by the Eagles. Another, based on Burn the Floor, the show called “Would You?”

TRRT: How long does it usually take to put new programs together?

Petrenko: It takes a few days to months to build a program, it just depends on the program. It’s unlimited.

TRRT: Last year we discussed the key to the perfect jump. This year can you explain the key to spinning?

Petrenko: Spinning is just a matter of experience. Spinning is a big part of figure skating. Before you start jumping, you spin. Every day you have to spin before you jump.

TRRT: Do you ever get dizzy on the ice from the spinning?

Petrenko: (Laughs.) I don’t really remember if I get dizzy. If I get dizzy, I don’t remember because I’m used to it.

TRRT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Petrenko: For all the fans who like figure skating, just come and enjoy the show. It’s for a good cause. We, as figure skaters, like to see the fans, and their support really helps us.

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