Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Celebrating a Skating Great: Happy Birthday, Paul Wylie!

There is no one like Paul Wylie. I feel so fortunate to have become a skating fan at the time when Paul Wylie was front-and-center on the professional figure skating circuit. He was known for skating themed-programs to grand soundtracks, filled with drama, passion, and all the best skating has to offer.

But before Wylie capitalized on skating his classics, such as "JFK," "Apollo 13," "Schindler's List," and "On the Waterfront," he won the hearts of the American people by winning silver at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Wylie, always a gifted skater, was never able to live up to his potential in competitions. Though he medaled at the U.S. Championships for five consecutive years (88-92), and made the Olympic team in 1988, he never won National gold or made it onto the world rostrum.

At the '92 Games, up against 3-time World medalist and 1998 Olympic bronze-medalist Victor Petrenko, Wylie finally skated two terrific performances, and captured the silver, just behind Petrenko, in what could be considered an upset. Other more credentialed skaters--Kurt Browning of Canada, and Christopher Bowman of the U.S.--were medal hopefuls, but did not deliver under pressure. In fact, some felt that Wylie's performances were as good as gold, given Petrenko's poor showing. Wylie's freeskate wasn't perfect, but his overall musicality and presentation was as good as gold, in my opinion.

In addition to his outstanding skating, Wylie has always been known in the skating community for being an all-around nice guy. I've been impressed in my own interactions with him. A few years ago, I was teaching a Holocaust unit to a group of 8th graders that I was student teaching. Having always loved Wylie's "Schindler's List," program, I decided that I wanted to show it in class. I emailed Wylie to get some insights from him on the interpretation of the program. I wasn't sure if I'd get a reply, but was so thrilled and appreciative when I quickly received one. Wylie went above and beyond to answer my questions and provide some great insights into the artistic interpretation of his program. My students were really impressed that the skater had written to me, for their benefit! Then two years later, I received the opportunity to interview Wylie (by phone) for an article I was writing on a skating show in which Wylie was a performer. It was surreal to be able to talk to interview one of my skating heroes. Very down-to-earth and insightful. Definitely one of my best moments as a journalist! To top it all off, a few months later, I got to meet him at the 2014 National Championships!

In honor of Wylie's 51st birthday today, here are his 1992 Olympic programs--the programs that helped cement his place in skating history. Enjoy these wonderful works of Olympic glory and join me in honoring this awesome American skating star! Happy Birthday, Paul!

1992 Olympic short program:

1992 Olympic freeskate:

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