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This successful builder took the skills that he learned as an athlete growing up in Marathon to develop into one of Canada's top competitive skating coaches, producing national and international champions throughout an impressive 26 year coaching career. Skating in Marathon, Thunder Bay and Toronto during the 1970s, he won the 1978 Northern Ontario ice dance title before returning to his hometown to coach.

Providing instruction to skaters from various clubs in northwestern Ontario from 1980-87, he guided them to success in singles, dance, pairs and precision. As a result of his coaching efforts, the Marathon Figure Skating Club became one of the most successful in the Northern Ontario Section.

His first of many opportunities to see his skaters take their place on a national podium occurred at the 1986 Canadian Championships. Leading his novice pair teams to gold and silver medals, it marked the first time skaters representing a northwestern Ontario club had earned national pair honours.

Relocating to Montreal in 1987, he continued to develop a number of young skaters throughout the 1990s. In 1992, he guided his brother Kris Wirtz and Sherry Ball to a Canadian Senior Pairs bronze medal, a 12th place Olympic finish and a 10th place World Championship performance. Bringing Kris together with Kristy Sargeant, he created a pairs team that would claim two gold and five silver national medals, compete at the 1994 and 1998 Olympic Games and place in the top 10 at numerous World Championships.

Returning to Ontario in 2000, he continued to guide skaters to success at national and international competitions, serving as the Director of Skating at the Toronto Cricket, Curling and Skating Club for five years before joining the Thornhill Skating Academy. Continuing the Wirtz family tradition of excellence, he led his nephew Sean with partner Elizabeth Putnam to bronze medals in senior pairs at the 2003 and 2004 Canadian Championships.

In 2006, Paul stood and watched with pride as his junior pair teams collected gold and silver medals at the Canadian Championships, just as he did with his Marathon novice pairs twenty years earlier. Sadly this would be his last opportunity to do so, as this outstanding coach and mentor to thousands of young skaters passed away in April of that year, leaving behind a record of success unmatched by any other skating coach from northwestern Ontario.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 27, 2008

Paul Wirtz

Figure Skating
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