1992 European Champion and Olympic Bronze Medallist Petr Barna was the first man to land a quadruple jump in an Olympic program. The 9-time Czechoslovakian champion retired after the World Championships the same year so that he could pursue a professional career in the United States.
However, the professional world proved different from what he’d expected. Revealed Barna, “In amateur skating, it matters how you skate. In professional, it matters how you “dance." And I don’t dance. I liked amateur skating better.”
These days, Barna coaches skating and leaves the dancing to his wife. He explains, “My wife, Andrea, she is a national ballroom dancer.”
The pair coach together in Florida, and have a daughter, Sofie, about whom the proud papa raves, “She started skating two years ago and she is, I think, a better skater than me!”
Along with partner Evgeny Platov, Oksana Grishuk is the only ice-dancer to ever win two Olympic Gold medals (1994 & 1998). Oksana expected to go on to a professional career with her partner of ten years, but things did not go exactly according to plan.
"My partner left me right after the "Champions on Ice" tour for no reason," contends Oksana, "Behind my back, not even telling me anything about his plans to skate with another skater. It was a huge shock for me to find out the news from a "Time Magazine" reporter."
Oksana blames her coach, Tatiana Tarasova, for orchestrating the split, claiming that Tatiana knew she would make no money if Oksana and Evgeny turned pro, and so she encouraged Evgeny to find a new partner (Maya Usova) whom Tatiana would then coach.
Although her professional life did not turn out the way she expected, Oksana nevertheless reports, "My life is wonderful now. I enjoy every day and even every moment. People seem to still recognize me for my accomplishments. I get so many compliments and so many warm and kind words from people who remember my skating, and love me not only as a skater, but also as a person. Sometimes I invite handicapped children to skate with me, and when I see the joy and happiness on their faces it makes me so happy.
"I also have a daughter of my own. She was born in August of 2002, and her name is Skyler Grace. We have so much fun together. She is the best thing that ever happened to me. We live in California and we love going to the beach, shopping, seeing movies and dining out. I am the happiest mom in the world and Skyler Grace is a happy little girl. She is my a little angel."
Mimi Wacholder (with partner Colin Sullivan) competed in Senior Dance at Nationals for five years, and represented the US at several international competitions.
"I was thrilled to compete internationally and represent the USA," remembers Mimi. "It made me feel truly patriotic, wearing a USA jacket in Zakopane, Poland, feeling like I had truly arrived at a level of greatness in my field. But at the same time, I was traveling through a countryside that was cold, poor and depressed. After the competition, I went to tour the concentration camps of Auschwitz. I often questioned the meaning of my quest."
Mimi retired when professional skaters were allowed to reinstate, explaining that this, "eliminated our chances of making the Olympics and I didn't have another 6 years to keep making the sacrifices for a possibility of making the next Olympics. I wanted to see what else I could be when I grew up, before I was all grown up and only knew skating."
"Ultimately, in my professional career, I ended up touring with Dorothy Hamill in the "Ice Capades," sharing lipstick colors and mascara tips in the dressing room. Skating, training, traveling and performing offered many gifts and lessons, including lifelong friends. The sport as a career was at once a vehicle of emotional release and creative self-expression, and an institution where I had to look, present and behave in a certain manner before judges and critics. It is a complex dynamic, this sport that requires you to be an athlete, artist and a pageant contestant. My current life is quite a stretch from sequins and mascara. It is about serenity. As a skater, I felt special, important-- like I was a star and even sometimes "better than." People would say: " That is so amazing you skate, I always wanted to know how to skate." Sometimes as a skater, although I felt a sense of superiority and self-importance outside, it was gravely lacking inside. I would feel emptiness and a longing for a career of substance and deeper meaning."
"Each day today is about the importance inside. I live in Lake Placid where my lifestyle is very simple and quiet. I teach yoga, write articles, have a marketing business and do some choreography. In addition, I am married to a wonderful man, Ben, who has taught me much about making each day count, and together we have an amazing son, Kai, who has taught me about making each second count. Skating taught me a lot about myself, but not skating has been the more challenging choice and taught me even more."
Craig Heath competed on the Senior Level at the US Nationals from 1988 to 1993.
"1993 was my last Nationals, in Phoenix," remembers Craig. "In 1992, I was 6th in Senior Men and that was a great accomplishment for me, especially after overcoming a very serious knee surgery that kept me off the ice and in recovery for five months. That could have ended my career entirely. I knew in my heart that 6th was probably the highest I was ever going to be. I loved skating, but I didn't love all the jumping. I wanted to skate, but in a different way. I was not sure how that was going to happen, but a very memorable conversation between my father and my choreographer, Cindy Stuart, prompted me to search for another way to continue to skate and perform."
Craig did leave the amateur scene with one major title, the 1991 Men’s Figure Champion. But the title he claims means the most to him, is one that came in 1998.
Says Craig, "It’s the World Professional Bronze Medal. Winning this title was so unexpected to me, and it gave me incredible confidence in the Pro skating world. I had been working very hard to make a good career in the pro world. I did everything that I could do to improve my performances. This title was the icing on the cake that I needed to continue to excel in a world filled with World and Olympic champions. This title allowed me to launch a very successful career in the pro skating industry, without any ISU World or Olympic medals. And my pro skating career has really been wonderful. I am going on my 12th year as a pro. I have had some absolutely incredible jobs in this business. I have performed all over the world and back again. When I turned pro, I wanted to work just as hard as I had as an amateur. I thought to myself, "What do I need to do to get people to hire me?" I toured with "Disney on Ice" for six years as Andy and Sid from "Toy Story." I performed in shows all over the world and for the past three years, I have been starring in "Holiday on Ice-Hollywood." For the past 3 years, I have spent the winters in Europe and the summers in Sun Valley, Idaho where I perform in the Saturday night show and teach during the week.
"I have been very smart with my money since I started in this business. In 1996, I bought a beautiful condominium in Mill Valley, CA (just outside of San Francisco) and then in 1998, I bought another one in Sun Valley, Idaho. I was elected as the president of the Professional Figure Skaters Cooperative four years ago, so that has really kept me busy whenever I am off the ice. The PFSC is the only organization that is there for the performing skaters. We strive to promote pro skating worldwide and to make this industry a positive one that we can all be proud of.
"Growing up as a skater gave me the drive and determination to know that I can do whatever it is that I set my mind to. If I can jump in the air and do triples at six in the morning, before school, what can't I do? The only aspect in my life that has suffered my crazy lifestyle is my love life! But, I would not take anything or any experience back, if I could. I have had an incredible career that continues to bring me to fun and exotic places all over the world. I still giggle to myself every time I receive money for performing. Yes, I love getting the money, but getting paid to do exactly what it is that I want to do and love to do, seems funny."