by Anne Calder | Photos courtesy Melissa Gregory
The third “Skating Mom” in our series is Melissa Gregory, 1998 U.S. Junior Champion (James Shuford), six-time U.S. National Senior medalist, 2005 Four Continents silver medalist, four-time World and 2006 Olympic competitor with Denis Petukhov.
Melissa Gregory has been married to Denis Petukhov for eighteen years and is the mother of two boys, Daxon (4½) and Lennox (called Knox) (2).
Gregory and Petukhov paired up after both were junior national champions in their respective countries (USA, Russia) and had competed on the junior international circuit. Both their partners had quit (for different reasons) and the duo found each other on the Internet.
“Denis came [to the US] for a tryout in August 2000 and never used his return ticket back to Russia,” Gregory said.
Gregory and Petukhov competed nationally and internationally for several years. An unfortunate accident during the free dance warm-up at the 2007 Skate Canada Grand Prix forced them to withdraw and cancel all competitions for the rest of the season.
The team watched the 2008 US Nationals from home instead of in St. Paul, Minnesota while Petukhov nursed his injured knee. Later in the year, the duo retired and moved to Connecticut where they began coaching and choreographing.
Gregory reflected on personal highlights from skating with her husband. Competing in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, touring with Champions on Ice on its final tour, and their 2007 “Fallen Angels” exhibition program were all very special.
“The Olympics had been a childhood dream of mine since I started skating,” Gregory said. “Fulfilling that dream WITH my husband was even more than I ever dreamed it would be.”
“My mom used to take me to the Champions on Ice shows when I was a young girl,” she added. “To be part of it as a skater was very rewarding. It was even more special that she got to see me perform in the Chicago show before she passed away. [It’s] a memory that I will remember always.”
Petukhov choreographed the 2007 “Fallen Angels” program to the symphonic rock, Sarabande Suite.
It was very unique and fulfilling, while also a bit out of the box. The skaters were Johnny Weir, Melissa Gregory, and Denis Petukhov.
“It was a very special personal piece for the three of us,” Gregory explained. “We came up with the idea on the plane home from the 2007 World Championships in Japan.”
“We were thrilled that it had such a great reception from fans and the audience. I think when something comes from the heart, it always comes out special,” Gregory added.
Gregory and Petukhov have continued to be involved together in skating daily. She shared her thoughts on why it has been so successful.
“I feel so lucky to have been able to share my career and go through everything with my best friend and the person I love by my side. We shared all our successes and triumphs and also our lows and hard times. Going through it all together made everything so much easier and so much better.”
In 2009, Gregory and Petukhov developed EduSkating Fever, a program aimed to introduce Connecticut middle school children to ice sports. Gregory was given the Rings of Gold award from the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2010 for the program that combined learn-to-skate sessions with academics. She was the first skater to receive the individual award.
Another family project is the more recent 2016 opening of their Rink at Brookfield Place in New York City. It is located on the Hudson River with a view of the Statue of Liberty on one side and the Freedom Tower on the other.
“The Rink is such a joy and so satisfying for me,” Gregory said. “I love working in NYC and soaking in all the culture and new trends. The mall has the best in fashion, shopping and restaurants, so learning about New Yorkers and building a business tailored to their desires, needs and wants has been so challenging and so cool.”
After Gregory became a mom to Daxon and Knox, a lot of adjustments were made in her life.
“Having children has been the best thing ever, but definitely a life-changer,” Gregory said. “We were fortunate enough to be able to do and travel so much before we had kids, so when we did have them, we were ready to settle down. We still love to travel, but with our kids, there is a new appreciation when we get to experience places and things through their eyes.”
Gregory described her feelings the first time she left her boys with someone else to watch them.
“It was terrifying! I had the hardest time wrapping my mind around leaving them in the hands of someone else because they are two of the most important things in my life. When I first hired a baby sitter, I would make her come to the rink so I could watch her and make sure the children were safe. Once I knew they were safe and cared for, I slowly learned to trust.”
Gregory and Petukhov continue to skate in their annual show, STARS UNITED and a few private corporate shows that they host at the Rink at Brookfield Place.
“With coaching, being a mom, and having the Rink in Manhattan, we really don’t tour or travel for shows,” Gregory said. “We still love skating and performing. It’s a lot of fun and challenging to take on the role of creating and producing while performing.”
Gregory shared her thoughts about why she loves everything about being a “Skating Mom”.
“Having children has brought a completely new perspective to everything in my life. It has helped me to be a better coach, a better wife, and better business owner. Also being a better skater and coach helps me be a better mom.”
“I love that I am able to coach young and upcoming ice dance couples of all levels. Guiding skaters through similar experiences that I have been through gives me a new perspective. It makes me look back at my career positively with an appreciation for every opportunity and everyone that helped me achieve my goals.”
“I also love using the life skills that I have learned from my skating career with teaching my children about discipline, patience, practice and what it takes to achieve excellence. I try to instill a positive in every experience with my children.”
Finally, Gregory offered her thoughts about advising women who want to be “Skating Moms” and also have a family.
“I don’t think that I would or could ever tell other moms what they should or should not be doing with their children, family or in their profession. Every family finds their own “routine” or what works for them and that’s great! Do what feels right and try not to compare or measure yourself to what others are doing. Every family is different and what works for them may not work for your family.”