View Full Version : John Misha Petkevich - a forgotten skater?

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04-03-2012, 09:43 PM
As a diversion from the endless crappola that has been particularly evident post Worlds this year, I was watching some of my favourite tapes and came across some old programs by John Misha Petkevich. There will be many here who remember him fondly, but equally plenty of skating fans who may know his name but have no recollection of his skating. Is he in danger of being forgotten? There is hardly anything online to watch so I thought I would try and rectify that and have made a montage of his best work.

Misha first came to international attention by finishing 3rd at the 1968 Philadelphia Nationals - creating a sensation with his Espana Cani free program - and thus gaining a place on the Olympic team that year. He brought the house down a year later in Colorado Springs at the World Championships but a 7th place in figures put paid to any chance of a medal.

A year later he turned up at Worlds in Ljubljana with a long program to music from On the Waterfront which for it's time was unheard of. Modern and unique, it created a stir but not enough marks to get on the podium. He had planned to try three triples at this event - toeloop, sal and lutz - but only the sal was successful. Figures also held him down again.

1971 and the retirement the previous season saw him finally win the US title with a wonderful performance marred only by a last second fall as he tried a double axel into a sit spin. Come Worlds and the move was gone but small errors and weak figures once again kept him off the podium. This was to be the story of his career at Worlds where figures continued to hold him back and despite the brilliance of his skating, unexpected errors would keep him from achieving his potential internationally.

Also in 1971 Misha won his only two major international titles at the World University Games and the very last North American Championships. Ironically he won the figures at North Americans and this was enough to hold off a brilliant freeskate from Toller Cranston in the free to win the title.

In 1972 Misha took a year out from his medical studies at Harvard to concentrate on one last try at the Olympic Games. It started disasterously at the Nationals in Long Beach where a fall on the triple sal and a step out on the triple loop saw him lose the title to Ken Shelley, who had already won the pairs title that week with Jo Jo Starbuck. The Olympics didn't go much better but he closed out his amateur career in Calgary at the World Championships with one of his best free skate performances.

While at Harvard in 1970, Misha began the Evening of Championship Skating that continues to this day. He went on to become a Rhodes scholar and earn a PhD in cell biology before working in investment banking, as well as commentating for mvarious US skating broadcasts.

Misha is credited with being one of the very best free skaters of his era using athletisicm and musicality in equal measure, breaking down the boundaries of how men were supposed to skate at that time. His jumps were incredibly high - nothing like it is really seen in todays skating. I hope you enjoy the video :)

John Misha Petkevich - Renaissance Man

04-03-2012, 11:00 PM
I love the montage!

I shared the following in a message to floskate, which I'll post here, as well:

He was my favorite skater pre-Toller/John; and so little appreciated now - not enough footage I guess.
I've seen a bit more than you have; but, very little

After all, DB passed the blades that Salchow gave him to John - saying that he left the sport better than he found it.
John and Toller had a long "mutual admiration society"' for one another's work.
I'd say that DB and Toller realize something that most others don't.

He did his "On the Waterfront" program at the 1974 World Pro competition held in Russia (prototype for the later Landover competitions) where he finished second to Ronnie Robertson.
I saw it; as it was broadcast on "Wide World of Sports". However, there was no way for me to record it, then. It was/is one of those performances that "lives in my memory", though,

He would make a wonderful subject for one of manleywoman's skatecasts.
I hope that it will happen someday.

04-03-2012, 11:30 PM
Oooh -- I remember his skating. Just gorgeous. Thank you for the montage and the memories. (And I see that the male pattern baldness tradition for the US men is pretty darned dominant.)

04-04-2012, 12:39 AM
Article featuring his spectacular performance at the 1968 US Championships:

Some of you might be familiar with his book:

04-04-2012, 01:30 AM
Mischa was the color commentator with John Tesh for CBS at the 1984 Worlds championships! I don't know whether that was his only TV gig or not.

Also, Dick Button gave Mischa the trophy Ulrich Salchow gave him.

I've often wondered whether Mischa has given anyone else the trophy, and if so, to whom he gave it?

04-04-2012, 01:36 AM
Great montage, Floskate!

Here is his program from 1972 US nationals:

Even with the fall, this is a truly wonderful program.

His book IMHO is the best instructional skating book there is.

04-04-2012, 07:51 AM
Mischa was the color commentator with John Tesh for CBS at the 1984 Worlds championships! I don't know whether that was his only TV gig or not.

Also, Dick Button gave Mischa the trophy Ulrich Salchow gave him.

I've often wondered whether Mischa has given anyone else the trophy, and if so, to whom he gave it?

Yes, it was passed on at the 2010 Evening of Champions to Paul Wylie. He (Misha) was the commentator for 1977 Europeans, 1988 Skate America and a whole bunch of World Pro's.

ETA: The passing on of the Salchow trophy (http://www.frogsonice.com/skateweb/reports/2010-ewc/dick-misha-paul.jpg)

04-04-2012, 11:22 AM
floskate, thank you, I'm glad to hear where it ended up!

and to know that Misha's broadcast career did not end because John Tesh has difficulty pronouncing the words "John Misha Petkevich" ;)

04-04-2012, 11:35 AM
Wow so elegant and athletic.

04-04-2012, 01:28 PM
Those jumps are HUGE.

JMP looks a little like Jeremy Abbott, John Curry, Michel Brezina, and Paul Martini.

Thanks for sharing.

Frau Muller
04-04-2012, 01:31 PM
Thank you for this. John Misha was one of my favorite skaters when I first followed the sport. He had the 'bulk' of a big hockey player yet was so elegant.

04-04-2012, 04:34 PM
Not forgotten!

He skated at my Boston-area rink when I was a very small child - I was thrilled to take a few lessons with him, and even as a little kid I realized how lucky I was. Just watching him stroke around the ice, he was so amazingly powerful and graceful. An inspiring and wonderful teacher.

There are not enough videos of his gorgeous skating. I remember him performing and announcing at the Harvard benefits, too - impromptu skates, it seemed, that brought the house down.

04-04-2012, 04:36 PM
viennese, how fortunate you were!

04-04-2012, 05:17 PM
John Misha Petkevich - Renaissance Man

Thanks for the montage floskate (thanks for all of your montages btw). I have his book, but I have never seen him skate.

I miss all the open and tuck jumps that skaters used to do, they go up so high and then hover for a moment, so breathtaking.

Does he do any coaching nowadays?

04-04-2012, 05:18 PM
I agree very lucky! And I'm very jealous - that must have been an amazing experience Viennese.

Skatesindreams I tried your Sports Illustrated link and all I get is a gateway timeout. Did a bit more rifling through old magazines last night and there were reports that he was landing triple lutzes in practice at both 1969 Nationals and Worlds. Considering that we had to wait until 1974 for the next triple lutz, it is a shame he never tried it.