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UP CLOSE: Wylie returns to town

Olympic silver medalist, Harvard Business grad takes newly created leadership position at ORDA

November 15, 2019
By ELIZABETH IZZO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The first time figure skater Paul Wylie set foot in Lake Placid, he was at the cusp of becoming a teenager and already well into his athletic career. Little did he know he would eventually live here and work for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

It was 1976, and Wylie, who grew up in Texas and Colorado, was training under Carlo Fassi. The renowned coach also taught Olympians like Dorothy Hamill, who won a gold medal at the 1976 Games in Innsbruck; Peggy Fleming, who won a gold medal at the 1968 Games in Grenoble; and Robin Cousins, a British skater who won a gold medal here during the 1980 Games.

The 1980 arena had yet to be built, so Wylie put skate to ice in the 1932 rink.

Article Photos

News photo — Elizabeth Izzo
Paul Wylie smiles Wednesday, Nov. 13 in the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.

Wylie was 12 years old and 16 years away from an Olympic medal of his own. He defied expectations and clinched a silver medal in men's singles at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France. It was a major upset - at the time, some questioned why he was put on the U.S. Olympic team because the highest he'd placed was ninth at the 1988 World Figure Skating Championship.

This win came between graduating from Harvard University with a degree in government in 1991 and getting his MBA at Harvard Business School in 2000.

Since his first visit, Wylie hasn't been far from Lake Placid. While touring with Stars on Ice between 1992 and 1998, he stayed in the Olympic Village for five weeks at a time. He said 10 to 12 years ago he would return almost every summer as a coach for other athletes.

The opportunity that would make 55-year-old Wylie a Lake Placid resident came through Michael Pratt, the CEO of ORDA.

Pratt, in a conversation with Wylie, mentioned that ORDA would be posting a new position: director of sport. It's a job that would put him in the middle of everything, acting as a point person between local, state and national organizations and every ORDA-managed facility.

"I applied for it and got the job. I'm thrilled," Wylie said.

It's been a whirlwind since then, he said. Wylie started at ORDA on Oct. 15 and is in the process of moving his family - his wife Kate and their three children - here from Charlotte, North Carolina.

"It's an adjustment," he said.

At the cafe inside the Olympic Center, just down the hall from his new office, Wylie looked out over the snow-covered speedskating oval. In the distance, the ski jumps rose above the wintery landscape.

"I'm excited. I need to get my cross-country skis out," he said. "I think in terms of the job, I'm excited to work with all of the sports and learn what their goals are, and work with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the international federations, and really try to enhance what we offer the world and New York state and our local community."

Lake Placid is in a unique position, Wylie said.

"There's an incredible combination of training, environment and community that other places just don't have," he said. "I think we have a very special opportunity."

Asked if Lake Placid is making a comeback in the international winter sports arena, Wylie said this place has never left the map.

"We're not coming back from anything because we've always been considered very highly," he said. "I think the truth is, we are doing what it takes to make our facilities even better, and the things we're doing to our facilities will do good for the sports that practice and compete here. I think we want to, in many cases, host the best events in the world and the best athletes in the world. I don't think that's ever changed.

"Lake Placid has always been a super-important spot in the world."



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