Whatever Happened To Figure Skater Oksana Baiul?

Many remember Ukrainian figure skater Oksana Baiul as the slight 16-year-old clad in a white costume swirling gracefully during her signature "Swan Lake" short program in the 1994 Winter Olympics, in which she won the gold medal. She edged out American favorite Nancy Kerrigan to become the youngest women to win it since 1928's Sonja Henie (via Kids Britannica). (Tara Lipinski became the youngest gold medalist four years later at the age of 15, according to Biography.)

Besides her skating ability, Baiul became known for her can-do spirit. Her grandfather gave her skates when she was 4 to help become more fit, and her natural ability attracted the attention of coach Stanislav Korytek, according to Kids Britannica. But highs and lows seemed to follow the skater. Her parents separated shortly after she was born; her father disappeared entirely when she was 2. Her mother died in 1991 from cancer, the same year Oksana finished 12th in the Soviet Championships. Her coach took her in until he left for Canada, and then Korytek urged Galina Zmievskaya, the coach of Olympic medalist Viktor Petrenko, to care for her.

"Oksana had nobody," Zmievskaya said to The New York Times. "I felt chills when I heard this story. She would become not like another daughter. She would become a daughter." Under Zmievskaya's training, Baiul earned a silver at the 1993 European championships, a gold at the World's, and her Olympic medal, reported Kids Britannica.

After her victory at the Lillehammer Olympics, Baiul moved to the United States to become a professional skater. That would prove fraught with disappointment and renewal.

Hardship and the road to recovery

After buying a house in Connecticut, Baiul began dealing with alcohol addiction. The ice skater had a car accident in 1997 and got a DUI, a charge dropped after she finished probation and an alcohol education program. Baiul told The New York Times in 1998 that she experienced ”a lot of pain inside” and ”pressure.” In May 1998, Champions on Ice let her go after concerns about her excessive drinking. Baiul entered rehab. ”Life for me is more important than alcohol,” Baiul said to the Times.

She published two books: her autobiography, titled "Oksana, My Own Story," and "Secrets of Skating." She also created a clothing line for skaters in 2002, and skated in ice shows, including the 2007 musical "Cold as Ice." She veered toward TV work, appearing as a judge on "Master of Champions" and the 13th season of the "The Apprentice" (from Biography). 

Baiul married her manager, Carlo Farina, and together they had a daughter, Sophia, in 2015, reported Wealthy Persons. They live in Las Vegas where they hope to create skating shows, including a revival of the "Champions on Ice Tour," to which Farina has acquired the rights, reported Vegas Revealed. "The goal and the hope is, because this is home and this is our family's town ... we do it as a sort of residency style show," Farina said to the publication. "A permanent anchor for one of the resort casinos."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).