Catching up with Paul Wylie

Paul Wylie
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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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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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