GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Paul McMullen, a 1996 Olympian who lived in Grand Haven, died Thursday following a skiing accident.
An Olympic hero in his hometown of Cadillac, he carried himself like a normal guy to those who knew him later in life.
“You’d never know he was that guy, unless you found out through another source,” Matt Kroll, a teammate of McMullen’s on Team Stellafly, a local multisport team, said. “He was not going to walk up to you and say, ‘I was a U.S. 1500-meter champion.'”
In spite of this, McMullen stood out for his thrill-seeking ways.
“He’d take his jet ski out on Lake Michigan in 8- to 12-foot surf and post it online,” Kroll recalled.
Kroll met McMullen when the Olympian was in his 40s. McMullen competed in a variety of athletic events and stayed in peak physical condition.
“If there’s a guy you want to model how to live outside the home, in terms of fitness and everything else, it’d be that guy,” Kroll said. “Every day posting activities, yesterday morning paddle boarding in Lake Michigan.”
Linsday DeLorme ran track at Eastern Michigan University, where McMullen was a record-setter. She met him through his Chariots of Fire Track Club, a running club for kids.
“He was just an extremely positive, amazing person,” DeLorme said. “He was very thorough with everything he did with kids: transporting kids to meets, just like a family.”
The club was started in Grand Haven and other chapters later opened up throughout West Michigan. McMullan convinced DeLorme to start one in South Haven.
“He lived big and was just an amazing motivational, inspirational person,” DeLorme said.
Kids in Chariots of Fire are honoring McMullen by competing at a national event this weekend in Ypsilanti.