READ GLOBE & MAIL'S "GOTTA SKATE 2" ARTICLE HERE!
READ KURT'S THOUGHTS ON BEING A LEADING MAN IN STARS ON ICE HERE!
Date: September 2003
Author: Maria Kuhlka
Courtesy of Nuria Garcia, editor of MundoHielo, the first Figure
Magazine in Spain. If you'd like to view the original Spanish version
this interview in the original magazine layout, go to page 1
http://www.kurtfiles.com/images/mundo1.jpg and page 2
http://www.kurtfiles.com/images/mundo2.jpg . Below is the original
English interview done with Kurt.
Kurt Browning was born in Caroline (Canada), on the 18th of June of
1966. He got an outstanding record in the amateur as well as in the
professional ranks, 4 time World Champion, 4 time Canadian Champion, 3
time member of the Canadian Olympic Team, 3 time World Professional
We know when and how you started to skate, but we would like to know,
when you realized that figure skating was not just a pastime for you?
That this is what you wanted to dedicate your life to?
Well, I guess I always knew that I liked skating but it was when I had
to move away from home and from my parents that I started making more
a dedication to it. Making this commitment changed skating and made it
more than just a pastime. As far as dedicating my life to skating,
sounds so funny to me. Maybe it is true but that sort of thing just
sneaks up on some people. If you would have told me I would still be
skating like I am at the age of 36 when I was only 15 I think I would
have laughed at you then.
Was there someone that influenced you in your decision to become a
I know my coach Michael Jiranek certainly influenced me to stay a
but to become one is different. Back in my little tiny hometown of
Caroline there was a skater who I though was fantastic. He was smart,
great long distance runner and kind to everybody. He was probably the
reason I did not quit at the same time as all the rest of the boys. If
he could do it then so could I. He is still a good friend and his name
is Marvin Trimble.
What skaters do you admire most?
I admire so many skaters for so many different things, but the skater
maybe admire the most is Kristi Yamaguchi. Of course she is one of my
best friends and we have known each other for years but that is not
reason. I don't know any skater who has grown so much in their career
a person and an athlete. She has also become a true artist as she gets
better every year.
It is over a decade since she won the Olympics and I am sure she could
have gone into Salt Lake City this year at these Olympics and with
enough training time she might have won again.
From your years as amateur, what makes you more proud?
Sometimes we are just lucky to be talented. I had a talent to skate
I had to learn to produce it at the right time and to deal with all
changes along the way. I was never a very consistent skater in
often having terrible workouts on the ice, but somehow I learned to
control that and became 4 time world champion. I had one great chance
win the Olympics but made a mistake that took that chance away , but
when you ask what makes me proud how I handled it makes me feel good
about myself. You are not just a champion because you win something
a champion because of the person you are. This is something the young
Olympic Champs of today could learn.
And what makes you proud as a professional?
The comments people make about enjoying being entertained over many
years by my skating. It is a wonderful thing to make people smile or
even sometimes to make them laugh.
Every sport has to evolve and push the limits in order to do so. In
skating, injuries are affecting the skaters more and more at younger
ages. Do you think that jumps are given too much importance? Is there
way to invent new moves instead of putting all the emphasis on the
It is natural for sport to evolve. Skiers are hurting themselves so
badly with their faster and faster speeds. Hockey, with all the
still has people getting hurt. Skating too is growing with each
generation learning from the one before it and improving on it still.
just feel that skaters are trying to do things they are not really
for. Trying the quads when the triple is not strong enough, when they
are not strong enough.
Yes skating does put too much importance on jumping but remember it is
called competition,,,, not exhibition. These athletes have to push
themselves to keep up with each other. They have to go to their limit
which is what it means to compete. It would not be sport if they did
You made history with the quad, now the quads are done in combination
and for some skaters it looks so easy. Is a jump with 5 revolutions
possible. Is that the limit?
I may be wrong but I believe that a 5 revolution jump, ( a quint ) ,
possible. I truly doubt that it will ever be consistent by any means
I do believe a special skater might be able to do it. I tried quad
in my day but never really gave it a chance... to scared I guess.
were days when I thought it could happen for me, 5 revolutions but I
never tried it ever. Maybe if the equipment we use advances then we
might have someone land one in the future? Place your bets... ???
We have read about the life on the road, on the Stars on Ice tour. It
looks like they treat you very well, private plane, best hotels, fun
things to do but we also read about how hard it is. So many shows, not
able to go home...is it really that hard? You have to perform almost
every night, do you also have to practice in between?
Tour is different for everybody. Some people are always fighting
injuries while others seem to float along without a problem. I have
lucky with injuries but as I get older it is amazing how much harder
is to be strong every night. This year I have an easier show than I
usually do. Usually, my work in the Stars show is so hard that I am
always tired and sore. This year I am have a number without any jumps
it at all and I love it because it makes people laugh. Too bad I fall
times in the number and this keeps me sore just the same.. Very sore.
practice every show day before we perform.
What qualities are really needed to be a good professional skater?
You mean besides being the kind of skater people want to spend money
see... you have to be able to put the shows needs ahead of your own.
Sometimes, not always, but sometimes you have to be able to work as a
team. For some skaters this is hard because we have always been alone,
solo, and not having to share the spotlight with other teammates.
you need to take care of yourself so you can perform each night to
best. Even though we do 70 cities in a tour, we only get one chance
night with that particular audience.
Do you have a favorite program?
One of my favorite ones is called Serenade To Sonia. This was put
together for my wife and because she is from Madrid I included a song
with Madrid in it.
Nyah is a very special program. We know about flamenco, and you
it to life. You did a fantastic job. Did you come up with the idea?
it hard to choreograph?
Nyah is a special program and I loved performing it. It was
choreographed by a dancer who danced with my wife Sonia. His name is
Roberto Campanella. He is Italian and loves music and movement. He had
the idea and found the music. I was worried at first because there
no jumps in the program but by the time it was finished I believed it
strong enough without them and actually it seemed to be stronger
As far as it being flamenco, it was never meant to portray actual
flamenco, only to be styled like the dance. His idea was to let
and the music inspire the choreography and not worry about actually
trying to dance flamenco.
At this time of your skating career, what do you consider yourself.
Athlete, artist, entertainer?
I certainly need qualities from each of these to do my job.
Athlete - without my skating skills and athletic abilities I would be
very impressive out on the ice
Artist - it is nice to try to move people or inspire them as well as
Entertainer - well, you can be a great artist but you have to know
audience. Knowing what makes them happy is what makes you a good
We know that you had your own shows for American TV. How hard is it to
put them together?
Very hard. The trick is to hire talented people to help you.
Choreography, staging, lighting and production. I try to hire skaters
that I think will fit the show and then come up with ideas to make it
fun to watch. It takes lots of work and planning but is worth it.
What do you see in your future?
Well, I hope to keep skating for some time to come. I also like
with other skaters and have had lots of ideas I never got to do on my
own that maybe I could give to other skaters someday. I have lots and
lots to learn but I might like to try to do some choreography.
Tell us something surprising.
I can't cook. I can ride horses. I type well and like making home
on my computer. I hate schedules but at the same time I hate messes. I
love my garage and lined it with wood for no good reason. I have the
best wife in the world and am one of the luckiest people I know. I
speak Spanish but will have to learn...... ahora.
Insets/sidebars in the article:
"You are not just a champion because you win something but a champion
because of the person you are." (1st page)
Our most sincere thanks to Kurt Browning for giving us his time, to
Tyan and to Kurt's management for their collaboration and help to make
this interview possible. (2nd page - top)
KURT ON MSNBC
Photo of Kurt in 2002 Olympic closing ceremony by George Rossano
Kurt was interview on the MSNBC cable network February 22, 2002 from Salt Lake City. He commented on the Olympic Pairs and Ladies events as well as proposed changes to the scoring system. He also participated in the Olympic closing ceremonies.
Kurt on Pro Competion
By JOSEPH WHITE, AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Kurt Browning was so upset over his second-place finish he pretended to ram his head into a concrete wall and called himself a loser.
A couple of hours later, Kristi Yamaguchi also finished a close second after falling on a triple loop, but she was all smiles.
"I just wanted to come in and enjoy the skating, and at this point in my career that's the important thing," Yamaguchi said. "It's funny, because we were watching the slow-mo of the triple loop, and I was even smiling as I was falling."
While no one doubts Yamaguchi's dedication, the competitive-intensity meter at this month's Skaters' Championship -- and at all professional skating competitions -- has swung nearly to the carefree extreme she expresses. And certainly away from Browning's the-goal-is-to-win attitude.
"I'm sitting there going, `loser,'" said Browning, beaten by Ilia Kulik in the men's event. "I don't know how you beat Ilia on a night like this, but at the same time, I didn't give my best. I crawled off the ice going, `I didn't want to leave anything behind.' And I'm not sure how many of us really do feel that way."
Six years ago, in the wake of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal, professional skating competitions rode an amazing tide of success. Pro events rivaled the Olympic-eligible circuit in popularity. Huge television ratings meant big money. Even 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski turned pro while still a teen-ager.
Today, professional head-to-head competitions have crashed like a bad double axel. Artificial team events such as "Ice Wars" still thrive, but no one takes them seriously.
"It's not bad," Browning said. "But it's not like it used to be."
The World Professional Figure Skating Championship, an event that built prestige over more than two decades, ended this year, replaced by the Skaters' Championship. The crowds at the MCI Center were smaller than ever.
There were some mitigating factors. Tickets went on sale late. Fallout from Sept. 11 might have kept people from traveling to the nation's capital. Fans are focused more on the Olympic skaters with the Salt Lake City Games just weeks away.
But Browning cites another reason for the decline: the retirements and semiretirements of an unprecedented lineup of champions who took winning and losing seriously and who, for several years, turned every competition into a once-in-a-lifetime show.
"You need outstanding champions," Browning said. "In the pro ranks, we were really hot for a while. You had Scott Hamilton, Paul Wylie, Brian Orser, Brian Boitano, me. We were all good. And right now the professional ranks are not as strong. We've seen brilliant moments, but we need more young guys to come up and be great. Right now we're in a lull."
Besides Kulik, who is still learning how to play to a crowd, and the competition-shy Lipinski, who is plagued by hip problems, many big names have remained Olympic-eligible. That's a triumph for International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta, who slowed the defections by introducing a big-money Grand Prix circuit that rendered the word "amateur" meaningless.
Yet even when the field is overflowing with stars, the pro circuit is plagued by three major complaints:
- --The same routines get recycled again and again. Kulik won in Washington with his 1998 Olympic program, which he said he has now performed more than 70 times, including tour appearances. Last year, the World Pro introduced a rule that one routine had to be making its TV debut, and it made for one of the most lively and original competitions in years.
That rule lasted only a year.
- --The competitions often are broadcast weeks after they occur. No one would dream of treating the Olympics the same way.
NBC finally broke that standard by showing the Saturday artistic skate live from the MCI Center for the first time.
- --Not all the skaters take the competitions seriously. Philippe Candeloro knowingly violated a no-props rule during the technical program, saying he was more interested in pleasing the crowd. Yamaguchi said she's just not as competitive anymore. Kulik said, "I don't really care too much about the placement."
Yuka Sato was an exception. She skated gamely in both pairs and singles and called her women's title, "the best moment of my career." And she won a world championship in 1994.
Browning said the lack of a competitive atmosphere hurts the event's chemistry.
"But what can you do?" Browning said. "Some things don't last forever."
The pro skaters have a trump card: Whatever the motivation, they put on better shows than Olympic skaters. Anyone who watched Yamaguchi and Sato stage near flawless back-to-back routines saw a special moment younger skaters can't duplicate.
"What they did as a 1-2 punch was truly an Olympic moment," Browning said. "The dancers -- they are the best on the planet. I'd rather watch this than the Olympics."
Browning will rely on showmanship during Sears Open
OTTAWA (CP) -- Kurt Browning isn't going to outjump anybody during the Sears Open but that doesn't mean he can't win.
Showmanship is his thing, and he's better at it than most figure skaters. He knows he'll get killed in the short program of technical elements when the two-day figure skating pro-am begins Friday night in the Civic Centre.
"I'm going to make them laugh then stand back and watch the carnage," he said after practice Thursday in predicting what will happen in the first phase of a men's event.
He'll be up against Elvis Stojko, Emmanuel Sandu, Todd Eldredge, Brian Orser and Steven Cousins. Browning (4), Stojko (3), Eldredge (1) and Orser (1) have won a total of nine world titles.
It's a tough assignment for Browning, 35.
"It's a professional guy coming in against the amateurs in their Olympic year," he said of being in the same field as Stojko, Eldredge and Sandhu. "I put together a short program that is going to be a lot of fun but I don't think I'm going to be scaring anybody with my technical prowess.
"It's hard to do Stars On Ice then change gears to do this. I've tried it other years and tried the triple Axel and it hasn't worked so this year I've taken it out.
"When you don't have the big jumps, you want to do it clean."
Rules restrict the number of triple jumps in the long program Saturday to four. As many as eight are allowed in Grand Prix meets and world championships.
"We all know, and I certainly do, that if this was a wide-open event like a Skate Canada or the Canadian championships that I don't think I'd be on the ice competing with Elvis," said Browning, who retired from the world competitive stage seven years ago. "They restrict the number of jumps to make it a level playing field.
"I'm at a disadvantage in the first half but some might say the pro is at an advantage in the second half."
The women's singles field includes Jennifer Robinson, Josee Chouinard, Nicole Watt, Lu Chen, Nicole Bobek and Victoria Volchkova.
It's a big weekend for Browning in more ways than one: the Kurt Browning Gotta Skate television special is on NBC Sunday afternoon (2 p.m. EST). His wife, ballerina Sonia Rodriguez, joins him on the show.
Browning is unsure who will win the men's singles gold medal at the 2002 Olympics. Initially, he was leaning towards reigning world champion Evgeny Plushenko. But he's been impressed with how Alexei Yagudin has been skating this season.
"He seems very hungry for a win," Browning said. "I had my money kind of going towards Plushenko but I don't know anymore. When (Yagudin) gets cocky and competitive, he's a tough guy to beat."
MESSAGE FROM KURT
I got a note from Kurt on May 24, 2001: After visiting his Dad, and friends in Edmonton, and seeing Sonia in "Madame Butterfly," he has been meeting with coach, Michael Jiranek and choreographer, Sandra Bezic. He is "itching to get back on the ice and is very excited" about the coming season.
If you're reading this.. thanks, Kurt & Sonia, for the favor.
KURT RANKS 2ND IN ONLINE SURVEY
Kurt placed second behind Todd Eldredge in the "SUPER SINGLES" online survey conducted by Blades On Ice magazine for their October 2001 issue.
- TODD ELDREDGE
- KURT BROWNING
- ALEXEI YAGUDIN
- BRIAN BOITANO
- SCOTT HAMILTON
- ALEXANDER ABT
- ILIA KULIK
- EVGENI PLUSHENKO
- ELVIS STOJKO
- TIM GOEBEL
- MICHELLE KWAN
- KRISTI YAMAGUCHI
- OKSANA BAIUL
- TARA LIPINSKI
- IRINA SLTSKAYA
- MARIA BUTYRSKAYA
- SARAH HUGHES
- ANGELA NIKODINOV
- KATARINA WITT
- JOSEE CHOUINARD
On road to Olympics:
Browning works with world champions, who introduce their new short program
Monday, August 13, 2001
By BEVERLEY SMITH
***submitted by Brenda Thomas
CALGARY -- Magic was felt the other night at a quiet, little rink in Calgary.
World pair figure-skating champions Jamie Salé and David Pelletier unveiled the short program they will use at the Olympics in Salt Lake City in February. The public saw it for the first time at an Alberta summer competition. It was a tango called Jealousy, and it sizzled from beginning to end.
The Jimmie Condon Arena has only a couple of rows of bleacher seats on each side, but on a warm August night, it was packed to the rafters. And noisy. All Salé and Pelletier had to do was show up and the cheers started. After all, they are one of Canada's best hopes to win an Olympic gold medal in six months.
Since Salé and Pelletier moved to Alberta to train, they have quickly become a part of the landscape. Salé grew up in Red Deer, an hour-and-a-half's drive away. Pelletier, a native of Sayabec, Que., has revelled in the relaxed atmosphere of Edmonton.
And they've both benefited from another Alberta-grown treasure in four-time world champion Kurt Browning, a native of nearby Caroline. The clever final pose of Salé and Pelletier's new tango sprang from Browning's fertile mind.
Their choreographer, Lori Nichol, hatched the idea to have Browning work with the pair earlier this summer in Toronto.
"We were all a bit nervous because we weren't sure of how it was going to work," Salé said. "He's a singles skater and I'd never seen him work with anybody."
Salé knew Browning from skating with him for years on the national team. Still, she was nervous. Pelletier had encountered Browning many times, but had never sat down to talk to him.
"It was like a first date," Pelletier said. "It was like 'so, what T-shirt should I wear [for the session]?' "
Nichol felt Browning would be particularly helpful to Pelletier.
"This is what I would do," Browning would tell Pelletier about certain moves or attitudes. Browning also helped them with the footwork of the tango. "He was an inspiration," Pelletier said.
"They were just knocked out," said Louis Stong, who coached Browning in the latter part of his career and who helped set up the meeting. "David just could not believe it. He kept saying after that, 'Oh my god, I can't believe what happened.' "
Nichol knows that Pelletier is a bit of a sponge. He would watch a Bruce Willis movie and he'd become Bruce Willis for two days. "I think she knew that if I watched Kurt, then something would come out in me," he said.
Pelletier and Browning are a lot alike. They're both performers on ice. They both have a flair for comedy, something that is apparent in the new tango. Stong describes Pelletier as "a tad more shy."
Browning has enough versatility that he could also help Salé with her attitude. "He plays both roles well," she said with a smile.
Browning seems to have a future in choreography. "I think he has a terrific sense of what works," Stong said. "Sometimes it's a very finite point, but it has a huge effect. Think of the things he's done and decisions he's made at the last minute."
Browning was not supposed to do a smoking pose in his famous Casablanca routine, Stong said. There was a strong antismoking sentiment at the time. But Browning inserted the move on the spot when he performed it one time, and it became one of the most memorable gestures of the routine.
"When he finished, everyone turned and looked at Browning's choreographer, Sandra Bezic," Stong said.
"I didn't do that," she said. "Don't blame me."
"He's very quick and he's very clever at the draw," Stong said of Browning. "If he can transfer that kind of ingenuity to others, he'll be a priceless treasure."
Pelletier said Browning could have 10 futures. "If he wants to become a comedian, he can be a standup comic," he said. "If he wants to be an actor, he can be an actor. If he wants to be a pro skater for 10 hundred years, I'll be watching him for 10 hundred years. He's so damned natural at everything he does."
As for the new tango, it's the kind of routine that makes you smile all the way through. "It's over the top," Stong said. "It's very clever."
And it's clever because of the way Nichol works, allowing Browning into the creative process.
"That's what so great about Lori," Pelletier said. "She's not one of these people who is scared to go somewhere else to get ideas. She has an open mind. She always listens and it doesn't matter who you are."
"She wants as much information as possible," Salé said. "She wants to make sure it [the routine] doesn't just please you, it pleases four out of five people. You're never going to please everybody."
The long program that Salé and Pelletier will use during the Olympic season is quite different. They're not ready to show it off yet, because they changed the first two minutes of the routine about 1˝ weeks ago, just to reposition some of the elements and rework the choreography.
It, too, is a masterpiece, Stong said. It's a perfect vehicle to show off their strengths.
"Their attention to edge and speed is really very noticeable in these programs," he said. "They're very, very good."
Copyright © 2001 Globe Interactive, a division of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.
11 AUGUST 2001-KURT SKATES AT MARIPOSA
The biggest crowd reaction came when two of Canada's finest athletes stepped on the ice together. Elvis Stojko and Kurt Browning stood at centre ice while the entire building cheered and gave the two skaters a standing ovation.
Closing the show was Kurt Browning, who skated to 'Nyah'. The program, which is more of a dance on ice as there are no jumps, pushes the artistic boundaries of skating and has become a crowd favorite across the globe. Performed with the flare we've come to expect from Browning, the program was unforgettable despite a small music problem. Charming and charismatic, Browning joked the incident away and continued the performance erasing the mishap. A fine way to end the evening, Browning wove a spell to end a magical night of skating. Full story @ iskater.com
25 JUNE 2001- Kurtfiles.com reports that Kurt received the Gustave Lussi Award from the Professional Skaters' Association. Congratulations Buddy!
KURT RECEIVES "STAR" ON CANADA'S WALK OF FAME:
June 1, 2001
Kurt & his wife, Sonia Rodriguez at the ceremony (IFS photo).
Read more at iskater.com
Kurt Receives Award from Scott Hamilton (also from iskater.com)