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American Paul Wylie Surprise Winner In Challenge of Champions

December 15, 1995

LONDON (AP) _ American skater Paul Wylie went from last place to first in just five days. Such is life on the burgeoning professional skating circuit.

Wylie, 31, took the men’s title Thursday over Viktor Petrenko of Ukraine in the 11th Challenge of Champions, which made its debut in Britain.

On Saturday, Wylie was fourth in a field of four skaters in the World Professional Figure Skating Championship in Landover, Md. He admitted he skated poorly there.

``I don’t know what was going on in Landover, I just tried to reattack here,″ said Wylie, who skated to music from the movie ``Schindler’s List.″

``I felt a strong emotion here, seeing as involved as England was in freeing people from the concentration camps,″ he added.

Like the rest of the skating community, Wylie was hard hit by the death last month of two-time Olympic gold medalist Sergei Grinkov, who died of a heart attack practicing in Lake Placid for the Stars On Ice show. Wylie skates in the same show.

``It’s better now, but we’re still trying to come to grips with it,″ he said.

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were near perfect winning the dance in a rare appearance in their native Britain. The 1984 Olympic gold medalists picked up 11 perfect-10 scores from 14 judges in an event they were widely favored to win.

The other local skater _ 38-year-old 1980 Olympic champion Robin Cousins _ skated well in his final event before retiring, finishing third in men’s singles.

Japan’s Yuka Sato repeated her win in last weekend’s professional championship. But the people’s choice in the event was second-place finisher Denise Biellmann of Switzerland.

The 33-year-old Biellmann _ the 1981 world amateur champion _ used Andean drum and flute music and an up-tempo routine to get the small crowd of 5,198 involved.

Two-time Olympic champion Katarina Witt was third, but as popular as ever with an elegant routine long on style and short on jumps.

And there was a near calamity.

The Czech pair of Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny took a chilling fall, bruising Novotny’s left cheekbone, loosening a front tooth and bruising his knee and elbow. The spill looked serious for a few moments.

Carrying Kovarikova overhead and upside down, Novotny suddenly stumbled and his 110-pound partner fell squarely on top of him. He sat dazed for 30 seconds as she tended to him.

``For a moment after the fall, I was out. I didn’t know what had happened,″ Novotny said.

The pair _ 1995 world amateur champions _ finished the routine after a delay of several minutes. They placed first last weekend at Landover.

``It’s our third event in two weeks, and we’re probably tired,″ Kovarikova said. ``It’s a pity what happened. I think Rene was in shock for a moment.″

The pairs event was won by Russians Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov, nudging out Canadians Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler.

``It’s been hard for us to beat Radka and Rene and Isabelle and Lloyd,″ Bechke said. She said it was only the second time they’d beaten the Canadians in about 20 events as professionals.

Canada’s Kurt Browning, meanwhile, was a show-stopper. He overslept and forced organizers to set back the starting time by 30 minutes.

``The official explanation they announced was I had skate problems,″ Browning said. ``I put a hold on my phone calls and I guess my wake-up call didn’t get through either.″

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