Catching up with Paul Wylie

Paul Wylie

Paul Wylie‘s silver medal at the 1992 Olympics was seen as stunning for a skater who had never finished higher than ninth at a World Championships, but his place at the Winter Games to begin with raised some eyebrows, too.

Wylie, then 27, finished second, barely, over the younger Mark Mitchell at the U.S. Championships one month before the Albertville Olympics. Three men would be selected for the Olympic Team, but U.S. Figure Skating had leeway to veer from taking the top three finishers at nationals.

One of the chosen ones was Todd Eldredge, the 1990 and 1991 U.S. champion who was unable to compete at the U.S. Championships but would be healthy for the Olympics. The second spot was wrapped up by the enigmatic Christopher Bowman, “Bowman the Showman,” who won the U.S. title in Orlando.

Wylie’s free skate was called “sloppy” by the Hartford Courant, and he received “charitable” judges scores, according to The Associated Press. Wylie himself, after skating first of the top five contenders, was changing into street clothes and preparing his retirement speech when he learned that he finished second, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A U.S. Figure Skating committee ticketed Wylie for Albertville over Mitchell, though it gave Mitchell the nod for the post-Olympics World Championships.

But Wylie proved himself in Albertville, bringing the Olympic Ice Hall crowd to its feet with his free skate to finish below only Viktor Petrenko. Wylie went onto professional skating after Albertville and is still involved in the sport.

OlympicTalk recently caught up with Wylie to reflect on his career and discuss what he’s doing today:

OlympicTalk: What’s something about the 1992 Olympics that would surprise a young figure skating fan?

Wylie: I had never been higher than ninth in the world, and I got second at the Olympics. It was amazing for me as a person, but in our sport that the IJS system wasn’t around, it was really kind of unheard of to make that leap [referencing today’s judging system that replaced the 6.0 format after the 2002 Olympics]. I always think that was a pretty important Olympics in that sense because there was an importance to breaking that mold.

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OlympicTalk: 1992 gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi has said she’s never returned to Albertville since the Olympics. Have you?

Wylie: No. I’ve wanted to go back. We’ve been talking about doing it as a 20th anniversary, so maybe a 25th now. I think it would be us in a little restaurant on the side of the road with a little candle [joking] . We went skiing after the Olympics in Meribel and Courchevel, and it was outstanding. I had a lot of fun there.

OlympicTalk: Did you ever think about returning to amateur competition after the 1992 Olympics?

Wylie: No. I was 27 by the time I retired from amateur skating, and then I was enjoying my professional career and making money. I was still able to compete. I competed 12 times a year as a professional with people who were my peers — Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning and Brian Boitano. It was so much fun on the other side of that. I think skaters today miss out on that opportunity.

OlympicTalk: Who was your favorite skater to compete against?

Wylie: I really enjoyed Christopher Bowman. We kind of grew up together. I miss him terribly to this day [Bowman died of an accidental drug overdose at age 40 in 2008]. Just a really fun guy to hang out with. He just kind of disappeared. It’s sad.

OlympicTalk: What did you think of the men’s performances in Sochi?

Wylie: I think everyone was kind of disappointed in the free skate. The guys were trying so hard to put two quads into their programs. There’s just so much pressure at the Olympic level. I was glad that many of them performed well in the short program [laughs].

I would say the team event was an interesting dynamic because I think a lot of people put their best performances out there in that. You come to the Olympics, and you’ve dreamed about it, and then all of a sudden you’re on the ice. To sustain that type of energy was a bit of a challenge for skaters like Patrick [Chan] and Yuzuru [Hanyu].

OlympicTalk: What are you doing today?

Wylie: I’m coaching, doing [figure skating] seminars and skating, too, and working with people in health and wellness. I’m based in Charlotte.

OlympicTalk: Why is it important to stay involved in skating?

Wylie: It just seems that happens naturally. You just keep getting roped back into it, whether it’s somebody asking for help with their student or a skater who wants choreography or a club that would like to have a seminar. Even in the health and wellness field, I feel like there’s such a good tie-in with skating.

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Penny Oleksiak to miss world swimming championships

Penny Oleksiak

Seven-time Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak of Canada will miss July’s world swimming championships because she does not expect to be recovered enough from knee and shoulder injuries.

“The bar that we set was, can she be as good as she’s ever been at these world championships?” coach Ryan Mallette said in a press release. “We just don’t feel like we’re going to be ready to be 100 percent yet this summer. Our focus is to get her back to 100 percent as soon as possible to get ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

Oleksiak, who owns the Canadian record of seven Olympic medals (across all sports), missed Canada’s trials meet for worlds two months ago due to the injuries. She was still named to the team at the time in hope that she would be ready in time for worlds.

The 22-year-old returned to competition last month at a Mare Nostrum meet in Barcelona, after which she chose to focus on continued rehab rather than compete at worlds in Fukuoka, Japan.

“Swimming at Mare Nostrum was a checkpoint for worlds, and I gave it my best shot,” Oleksiak said in the release. “We reviewed my swims there, and it showed me the level I want to get back to. Now I need to focus on my rehab to get back to where I want to be and put myself in position to be at my best next season.”

Oleksiak had knee surgery last year to repair a meniscus. After that, she developed an unrelated left shoulder injury.

In 2016, Oleksiak tied for Olympic 100m freestyle gold with American Simone Manuel. She also earned 100m butterfly silver in Rio and 200m free bronze in Tokyo, along with four relay medals between those two Games.

At last year’s worlds, she earned four relay medals and placed fourth in the 100m free.

She anchored the Canadian 4x100m free relay to silver behind Australia at the most recent Olympics and worlds.

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Fred Kerley flies into Florence via Grenada; Diamond League broadcast schedule

Fred Kerley

American Fred Kerley is about to race on a fourth different continent this year, but the seeds for this season — and all of his medal-winning seasons — were planted on the sand, grass and pavement of Grenada.

Kerley, the world 100m champion, headlines Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy. Peacock streams it live from 2-4 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was to be a showdown between Kerley and the Olympic 100m champion, Marcell Jacobs of Italy. But Jacobs withdrew on Tuesday due to the nerve pain that has pushed back the start of his outdoor season. Jacobs withdrew from six scheduled races with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since winning that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, who traded social media barbs with Jacobs earlier this spring, indicated a detente in a press conference Thursday.

“I’m not upset that he’s not competing, just wish him health and that he gets back to competing at 100 percent,” he said.

When speaking of himself, Kerley kept his trademark confidence. He wore a hat with a goat on it on Thursday and repeated that his focus is on two numbers: 9.69 (Tyson Gay‘s American record in the 100m) and 9.58 (Usain Bolt‘s world record). Kerley’s personal best, in two-plus years since dropping down from the 400m, is 9.76.

He resides in South Florida, a place that allows an outdoor athlete to train year-round. Kerley eschews that. He annually flies to Grenada for up to six-week stays.

“[I] work on a lot of specific stuff in Grenada to get me to the level I need to be when Budapest comes around,” Kerley said, referring to August’s world championships in the Hungarian capital, where he will bid to become the first man to repeat as world 100m champion since Bolt in 2013 and 2015.

Why Grenada? His Texas-based coach, Alleyne Francique, competed at three Olympics for the Spice Island, including placing fourth in the 400m at the 2004 Athens Games. That was the best Olympic finish for any Grenada athlete until Kirani James won a 400m medal of every color at the last three Games.

Francique recruited Kerley to Texas A&M out of junior college in 2015. When Kerley turned pro in 2017, he moved to the ALTIS training facility in Arizona. After a year, he went back to Francique at College Station — “It didn’t work out for me. I won’t say anything bad about the program,” he said in 2019, according to Track and Field News. Kerley has since moved to Florida, but Francique still coaches him remotely from Texas.

Kerley has trained in Grenada’s national stadium in St. George’s, which in 2017 was named after James. But a more unique venue for Kerley is a paved hill near the home of one of Francique’s friends.

“There’s no traffic, so it’s a good area to train,” Francique said.

There are few distractions there, aside from chickens, ducks and cattle. Francique noted that in the three seasons that Kerley trained in Grenada, he won bronze (2019 Worlds 400m), silver (Tokyo Olympic 100m) and gold (2022 Worlds 100m).

“So next year, maybe, he breaks a world record,” Francique said.

Here are the Florence entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
1:43 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:20 — Men’s High Jump
2:25 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:42 — Women’s Long Jump
2:44 — Women’s 100m
2:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Women’s 400m
3:39 — Men’s 100m
3:49 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:43 p.m. ET
Just like the Diamond League season opener in Doha, the field has the top five from the last year’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. Moon is the world leader this year indoors and outdoors, though she no-heighted at last Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix. Come August’s worlds, she will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years. Morris, who was third in Doha, eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Women’s Long Jump — 2:42 p.m. ET
A gathering of the world’s most accomplishes active jumpers — Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, Olympic and world medalist Ese Brume of Nigeria — and the top Americans — Quanesha Burks and Tara Davis-Woodhall. They’re all chasing 7.08 meters, the world’s best leap this year recorded by Jamaican Ackelia Smith, a University of Texas sophomore.

Men’s 5000m — 3:06 p.m. ET
Field includes Olympic 5000m champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia and world silver medalist Jacob Krop of Kenya as well as reigning U.S. 5000m and 10,000m champions Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. Cheptegei, the world record holder, was ninth at last July’s worlds and since has strictly raced on the roads and in cross country.

Men’s 100m — 3:39 p.m. ET
The entire podium from last year’s worlds meets here: Kerley and countrymen Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell. It’s a similar field to last Sunday, when Kerley prevailed by five hundredths over South African Akani Simbine. Simbine is back, as is Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the world’s fastest man this year (9.84) but was third in Rabat.

Women’s 1500m — 3:49 p.m. ET
Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a double Olympic and double world champion, ran the world’s fastest time of 2023 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 5. Then last weekend, four different Ethiopians ran faster. Kipyegon figures to be faster in Florence than she was in Doha given the addition of Brit Laura Muir, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, in her outdoor season debut.

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