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Former Olympic runner remembered as 'inspiration' to West Michigan community

Former Olympic runner remembered as "inspiration" to west Michigan community
Posted at 9:17 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 22:24:33-05

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — A former Olympic runner is being remembered for his impact in West Michigan.

Paul McMullen died Thursday in a ski crash at Caberfar Peaks near Cadillac.

“Numbing shock,” said Lindsay Delorme, a close friend of McMullen, who coached alongside him in recent years. “People are just still trying to process it.”

According to the resort, McMullen was an experienced skier but somehow lost control and collided with a permanent snowmaking tower.

Born in Cadillac, McMullen went to Eastern Michigan University where he became one of the country’s top middle-distance runners. The eight-time NCAA all-American set records at the school that still stand to this day. In 2003, he was inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame.

In 1996 McMullen competed in the 1,500m at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Throughout his nine-season professional career, he broke a four-minute mile 42 times.

“Anyone that knows him loves him,” said Delorme. “An amazing personality; he’s just so positive and uplifting, motivational, [an] inspiration.”

McMullen eventually moved to Grand Haven in 2002 where he served in the U.S. Coast Guard until 2005.

In recent years, McMullen started Chariots of Fire, a West Michigan running club for kids.

Delorme coached one of its five chapters and says McMullen shaped hundreds of athletes.

“He would just do all kind of different things with these kids with practice -Sled-type races and trails and hills and dunes,” said Delorme. “Those kids love him and he loves them. I mean family; they’re just like family.”

McMullen joined Stellafly, a multi-sport team based in Grand Rapids in 2020. He is survived by his wife, Nuria, and three children.

“He’s an Olympian just in every aspect, not just competing and racing but just the way he is and carries himself; just that Olympic spirit,” said Delorme.

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