ORLANDO, Fla. – With both courage and trepidation in her voice, Anika Hansford faced the man accused of abusing her so she could tell a judge how that abuse had destroyed her childhood.
“Instead of all of the things youth sports promises a young woman, my figure skating career led to the most horrifying outcome,” Hansford told Judge Renee Roche during a plea hearing on Wednesday.
“I felt dirty. I felt like trash. I felt ugly in a way that the outside world could not see and understand,” Hansford said.
The judge invited Hansford to read a victim impact statement during the plea hearing of her former figure skating coach, Andrei Berekhovski, who had planned to plead guilty to one count of performing sex acts on a minor.
“He looked at me, put his hand on my thigh, and said, ‘You know you cannot tell anyone about this, and even if you do, no one will believe you,” Hansford recalled.
In 2018, after holding in her secret for years, Hansford came forward to Orange County detectives with allegations that Berekhovski sexually molested her when she was 13 years old while she was under his sole care and protection.
To help pay for skating lessons, Hansford explained to detectives that she lived with Berekhovski and his wife at the time of the assaults. Hansford’s parents worked full-time out-of-state.
“There are no words to really capture the years of pain, of shame, of doubt, of thinking that this his sexual advances and molestation was somehow my fault,” Hansford said.
During her statements, Hansford told the judge she had dreams of performing in the Olympics. Berekhovski, who lived at one time in Windermere, was a certified Olympic-level figure skating coach, teaching at places like Ice Factory Figure Skating Rink in Kissimmee.
Sources tell News 6 that Hansford is one of two women to come forward with information and assault claims against Berekhovski, who appeared in court on Wednesday to face Hansford and his crimes.
The plea would have forced the former coach to register as a sexual predator, serve two years in jail and 10 years on probation.
“A guilty plea is meaningful to the victim, and it gives her closure,” Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Rossman explained.
However, the judge disagreed.
“The circumstances of this, the abuse itself, having occurred repeatedly: this is simply not enough,” said Roche.
After hearing Hansford’s impact statement, Roche sent both sides back to the negotiating table, concerned in part that Berekhovski’s jail time was too lenient.
According to Roche, the sentencing guidelines state that the former coach could legally serve nine years in prison instead of the two years agreed upon in the plea.
Roche also expressed concerns that Berekhovski may try to flee while on probation since he fled to Russia early into the investigation stage of the case.
Berekhovski was only picked up and extradited by Interpol during a chance visit to Poland.
In 2019, SafeSport, a nonprofit group dedicated to ending abuse in sports, placed Berekhovski on their discipline list. He was deemed “ineligible” to coach or participate in figure skating until further notice.
U.S. Figure Skating upheld the grievance and posted the disciplinary action on the organization’s website.