There wasn't much to do for young Kurt Browning growing up in a tiny town called Caroline in Alberta, Canada. It was either skate - or skate."All the kids were on the ice," he recalls on his childhood.Browning, who later skated to win four world championships, is still skating - this time in the Smucker's Stars on Ice show, coming to The Palace on Saturday.
This year, the tour will donate a portion of ticket sales to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.The skating star began his career on the ice in hockey skates, as many Canadian children do, and then also took on figure skating."It seemed figure skating was something I was good at," he says. "I didn't lose anything by giving up hockey."Since focusing on figure skating at age 15, Browning, 36, has collected a number of titles and built a large list of accomplishments.
"Right now I'm putting my energy into a comedy number," he says, grabbing for a pen and paper and illustrating the routine.The pen starts on one side of the page and glides to the other edge and then on to another edge, making a criss-cross pattern. The routine involves Browning trying to get from one side of the rink to the other, all the while skating into obstacles."The music seemed funny," he says about the inspiration for the piece.
One of the spectacular bonuses about Stars on Ice is being able to work with some of the world's best figure skaters, often soon after they've emerged from Olympics fame. This year's U.S. tour features the debut of 2002 Olympic Pair champions Jamie Salé and David Pelletier of Canada and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, all of whom emerged from an unprecedented Olympic controversy with gold medals and new loyal followings.
Though rumors have pitted the pairs against each other, Browning says they are all friends, both teams even travel on the same tour bus."They're just great people," he says. "We've really become a family, become a team."
Returning to the tour are two-time Olympic champion Katarina Witt; World Champion, six-time U.S. National Champion and Lake Angelus resident Todd Eldredge; and three-time U.S. National Pair Champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand.Also making a debut on the tour are 2002 Olympic Men's Champion Alexei Yagudin and three-time U.S. National Pair Champions and World Bronze medalists Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman.
Browning says it's exciting to work with the younger stars."My Olympic experience ended almost a decade ago," he says, "and I am recharged by the talent that comes out."
ŠThe Oakland Press 2003