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Wylie skates to silver

The old man, the third man, nearly was the best man. Some people thought he was best.

Paul Wylie, with the performances of his life, finished just behind Viktor Petrenko of the Unified Team on Saturday night in men's figure skating at the Winter Olympics.

It was the fourth straight Olympic competition in which a U.S. man has won a medal. Brian Boitano won gold in 1988, Scott Hamilton gold in 1984 and Charlie Tickner bronze in 1980.

Wylie, 27, wowed the crowd. There were murmurs when his scores were announced. "I feel I did almost the best job that I could have done," he said. "That alone is the most satisfying thing."

The Harvard graduate, in his final year of amateur skating, got first-place votes from the Austrian and Canadian judges. Petrenko got the other seven.

"Paul Wylie should have won the gold medal," said American coach John Nicks.

Wylie, considered the least likely American medalist _ he never has won a U.S. championship, while teammates Christopher Bowman and Todd Eldredge each have two _ entered the final night third and was cleaner than Petrenko in the free skate, worth two-thirds of the total score.

But his program was a bit less difficult, and Petrenko, the 1988 Olympic bronze winner, is more highly regarded on the international scene. Petrenko went down on a triple axel, but it was the second of his routine, one more than Wylie attempted.

Petr Barna of Czechoslovakia completed the first clean quadruple jump in the Olympics and finished third. "This is my first Olympics and world-class medal, and I don't care what color it is," Barna said.

Three-time world champion Kurt Browning of Canada struggled and finished sixth. "Viktor gave me a chance to win, but I didn't take it," he said.

Bowman skated a bit better to move up to fourth after being seventh in the original program.

"I came, I saw, they kicked my butt," he said.