LONDON, Ontario -- Paul Wylie of Denver, in an exhuberant and flamboyant free skating performance, captured the gold medal Friday night at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships.
Performing secondto last, the 16-year-old skater mesmorized the 3,000 spectators with a sure-footed, entertaining and near-perfect routine that was clearly above those of the 15 other competitors.
He launched the four-minute routine with a high double axel and made two triple toe loops to stirring classical music, to earn the highest marks from all seven international judges, including a 5.8, two-tenths less than perfection.
Jury Bureiko, a 13-year-old from the Soviet Union, skated to a pulsating modern disco tune but lacked Wylie's polished style in the final competitive segment and finished second behind the American.
Wylie had been second in the compulsory figures to Switzerland's Oliver Hoener, who later dropped out of the upper bracket, and was tops in Thursday's short program.
Scott Williams of Redondo Beach, Calif., despite a painful back injury, finished third collapsing as he left the ice.
Earlier Friday, Marina Serova, of the Soviet Union moved from fourth to first in the women's singles competition with disciplined execution in the short program.
Serova took a narrow edge over West Germany's Cornelia Tesch after figures leader Andrea Rohm, of Austria, committed several crucial errors to fall to sixth place. Tesch, second in figures, was technically accurate yet unimaginative to place fourth in the short program.
Two Californians, Maria Causey, of Los Angeles, and diminutive Tiffany Chin, of San Diego, were third and fourth respectively going into Saturday's free skate event which will account for 50 percent of the total score.
Diane Ojibowski, 15, of Minnedosa, Manitoba. suffered a fall on a double lutz, double loop combination to remain in fifth place. The surprising performance of the evening came from her compatriot Charlene Wong, who moved up four spots, from 13th to ninth.
'I was really pleased with what I did,' said Wong of Pierrefonds, Quebec. 'I could have been smoother and more expressive. I think that Thursday's compulsory figures was just an off day. I usually don't have problems with my schools (figures), but I just blanked it out.'
'The timing was off,' said Ojibowksi. 'I blew it. I wanted to do it so bad that I never relaxed. I felt good up until that point.'
'I hoped I hadn't used up my good performances (with the short program),' said Wylie. 'I couldn't get to sleep Thursday night for two hours.'
Robin Cousins, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist, choreographed the winning performance, ironcially to Russian classical music while Bureiko skated to Americanized disco strains.
The American wanted to do three triple jumps but only skated two, replacing a triple Salcow with a single during the program.
'It's good for me to try these jumps under pressure,' he said. 'This was the first time international judges have seen me and its important that I skated well.'
Wylie entered the competition hoping to place in the top three. 'I had no idea that I'd even come close to winning this one,' he said.
Finishing fourth and fifth respectively were Masaru Ogawa of Japan and West German skater Thomas Wieser.