It was another time, another era. Czechoslovakia was ruled by the Soviets and cut off from the Western world by the physical boundary known as the Iron Curtain.
It was from behind that unyielding shield that a young Czech skater named Petr Barna emerged.
From the first moment he stepped onto the ice, he knew skating was for him. He vividly remembers his parents taking him skating on an outdoor rink in his hometown of Prague, which was lit by overhead lamps that swung in the evening breeze.
“My parents never pushed me into skating, otherwise I would have stopped skating a long time ago,” he said.
“I can’t say the same about the officials,” he added in reference to the Communist regime that ruled his homeland.
When Barna started taking skating lessons in 1972, there were
few ice rinks in Prague. Training time was limited to two hours
every morning and one hour in the afternoon. To supplement his training regime, Barna skated on frozen lakes and backyard hose ice in the winters.
“In 1976 the Communists started establishing centralized practice cities like Prague, Brno and Bratislava and then we had plenty of ice time. But you had to perform,” Barna recalled.
He also remembered times when the goals set by the officials were impossible to achieve. “We had to be creative. There were few good coaches that were inspiring,” he said. “I was lucky.”
In 1985 Barna claimed the first of seven senior national titles.
His natural rhythm and inherent sense of musicality were a highlight of his creative and original routines.
At the ￼1991 World Championships in Munich, Barna’s short program brought the crowd to its feet and earned a 6.0 from one judge for artistic presentation. He was the first man to ever receive a perfect mark in the short program.
“I was always also looking for inspiration from different places — the arts and other sports,” Barna said. “I always thought I could learn something from everybody.”
In 1989 he arrived in Birmingham, England to compete at the European Championships. As he was exiting the airport building he stumbled and suffered a severe sprain in his right ankle. Undeterred, Barna put down two solid performances and claimed the bronze, his first major international medal.
The Czech star had no triple Axel in his repertoire but made up for it with triple-triple combinations. He claimed two silver medals at the European Championships (1990 and 1991) and skated into
fourth place at Worlds (in 1991).
In 1992 Barna won the European title and a month later claimed the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France.
Barna made history in Albertville when he landed a quad toe in his long program, the first man ever to do so in Olympic competition. When asked about the pressure of competing at those Olympic Games, he quipped: “I am still recovering from it.”
He turned professional after 1992 Worlds and joined the Champions on Ice tour. But pro skating was not to his liking — he missed the amateur world and decided to retire.
Reflecting on his career at age 47, Barna said he was satisfied.
“All the medals I won are precious to me," he explained. "I received a 6.0 three times in my career and I'm happy about."
Barna married Czech ice dancer Andrea Juklova in 1990. Their daughter Sofie Barnova was born in April 1992.
The family moved to the United States two decades ago and he and his wife coach full-time in the Tampa-St.Petersburg area. "There were no opportunities in the Czech Republic for pro skating or coaching to make a living so we moved," Barna said.
When asked if his daughter skates, Barna laughed. "Yes, she is skating," he said. "It was not my idea; she is the one to blame."
Petr Barna - 1991 World Figure Skating Championships