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Wylie mentoring U.S. men's champ Abbott

Olympic silver medalist finds joy as a mentor

Paul Wylie (left) and Tom Zakrajsek (center) with U.S. men's champion, Jeremy Abbott (right).
Paul Wylie (left) and Tom Zakrajsek (center) with U.S. men's champion, Jeremy Abbott (right). (Jo Ann Schneider Farris)

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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to icenetwork.com
(03/04/2009) - Paul Wylie won a silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France, which was somewhat of a surprise since at previous international figure skating events he had not skated consistently -- in spite of his athleticism and breathtaking style.

Since those Olympic Games, Wylie has been enjoying a successful professional figure skating career. He was the 1992 U.S. Open Professional champion, the 1993 World Professional Figure Skating champion and has toured with Stars on Ice. Despite all these successes, Wylie is perhaps best known as a figure skating commentator and coach.

Now, Wylie has a new role: mentor.

In 2008, U.S. men's champion Jeremy Abbott's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, suggested that Wylie might be a good match to mentor Abbott; since Wylie has "been there himself and he knows what it felt like and what it takes to get to the podium."

Abbott liked the idea.

The two skaters have some things in common. Both showed much talent and promise at a young age, and both won the U.S. junior men's title. In addition, they both skated pairs in addition to singles.

Abbott grew up in Aspen, Colo., and Wylie spent a good deal of his early years in Colorado. They also had some inconsistent performances at important figure skating events. Wylie competed at the senior level in what may be a record 11 consecutive U.S. championships. Abbott has not done as many, but in Abbott's words, he has "been around awhile."

Wylie has not only "been there, done that," but did many of the same jumps that Abbott now does. His Olympic long program included several clean triple jumps including a triple Axel, a triple flip, and a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination. Wylie has made two special trips to Colorado Springs to spend time with Abbott. The first trip was in October of 2008, and the second trip was in late February 2009.

Zakrajsek explains that Wylie helps Abbott emotionally. Most of the time, the two talk on the phone. "I call Paul about once a week," says Abbott. "He's there for me whenever I need him."

"Paul does offer Jeremy some technical reinforcement; however, that is limited since he has only worked with Abbott on two separate occasions," says Zakrajsek.

Wylie will be taking a trip to Los Angeles to be at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships at the end of the month.

"Paul will be sitting in the stands watching the event like everyone else, but I also know he'll be there for me," says Abbott.

Wylie has stated that he is enjoying watching over Abbott's skating career.