Olympic medalist coaches figure skating club for the day

Mar. 29—WATERTOWN — The Figure Skating Club of Watertown hit the ice on Friday with Olympic medalist Paul Wiley as guest coach. Wiley lives in Lake Placid but spends much of his time on the road, sharing his experience in the sport with young skaters.

That experience is extensive. Wylie won the U.S. and Junior World Championship in 1981. He placed second at the U.S. Championships in 1988, 1990 and 1992.

In the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, Wylie took the silver medal. During his professional career, he won the 1992 U.S. Open Professional Championships and the 1993 World Professional Figure Skating Championships. Wylie toured the country with Stars on Ice until 1998. He was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2008.

Wylie was impressed with the level of engagement that he was met with by the young skaters at the Watertown Municipal Arena.

"They have brought a lot of attention during this time that we've spent together. When skaters are curious, they are looking for the thing that makes the jump or the spin work. I think that is so much better than if they are passive about it," he said.

The students weren't the only ones taking advantage of their time with Wylie.

"The coaches were the same, asking, 'What do I need to instill, do you think, in order to make this change for the better?'" he said.

They spent time training both on and off the ice.

Their exercises included a dynamic warmup, practicing off-ice jumping, arm swings on the axle jump, as well as take-off, air and landing position of jumps.

On ice, many of the kids wanted to get some airtime, but Wylie stressed the importance of the entrance and exit.

"I have surprised them maybe by starting with their edges and working on the feeling of what the entrance and exit is supposed to feel like, because that is essential in the rhythm setup of the jump. I think a lot of kids just want to get in the air and spin around and see if it works."

Figure Skating Club of Watertown's Head Coach, Sherry Robbins, said she believes her skaters will take a lot away from the experience.

"We're very excited and extremely honored that he's coming to work with our skaters," Robbins said in a statement from the club.

"It's an invaluable opportunity to learn directly from an athlete who has skated at the Olympic level," she said.

The athletes will be able to put what they have learned to the test.

Several of the club's skaters achieved medals in the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid in February, qualifying them to compete in the upcoming State Games of America, held in San Diego in July. Another group of club skaters will be traveling to Massachusetts this summer to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Excel National Festival.