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Browning ready to jam on Smucker's ice show

Smucker's Stars on Ice: Four-time world champion calls tour that stops Friday in Topeka 'the best show out there'


1:26 a.m. - 1/22/2003

The Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal

Kurt Browning

With a name like Smucker's, it has to be a good ice show. In fact, four-time world champion Kurt Browning, one of the Smucker's Stars on Ice, says: "We're a great show. I can easily say we're the best show out there."

Browning, who spoke by telephone Monday from Los Angeles, said the Smucker's Stars on Ice tour, which stops Friday night at Landon Arena at the Kansas Expocentre, has it all -- "the lights, the choreography, the sound and the integrity of the athletes on the ice."

Browning acknowledged integrity and ice skating haven't been exactly synonymous lately given the judging scandals at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Four of the skaters who found themselves in the middle of a judging controversy in pairs competition in Salt Lake City are on the Smucker's lineup. Russian pairs champions Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze and the Canadian duo of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier wound up sharing Olympic gold as a result of improper conduct by the judges.

Browning said he has been particularly impressed by how fellow Canadians Salé and Pelletier have adjusted to the professional show circuit, noting there is a big difference between skaters getting ready for competitions and performing every other night on an extended tour.

"As an amateur, you need to be good that day," Browning said of the Olympics or any other championship.

"As a pro, you need to be good every other day that the lights go out and it's 7:30 in some other city," he added, noting he and other pros spend four or five months on the road touring.

Browning said skaters on tour also have to find the right balance between delivering a truly professional performance without sustaining injuries.

"You can't hurt yourself for one audience so for the next 10 shows you're not the athlete you should be, and they paid good money and don't get to see the best show you can give them," Browning said. "It's a different type of integrity.

"You have the spread the peanut butter a little thinner. Yeah, that's a good analogy, considering Smucker's is our sponsor. You have to spread it out over four or five months, and you have spread it out over really hard travel, on a bus, and a lot of other commitments to family, business and media and yourself."

It seems to Browning that Pelletier and Salé, new to the Stars on Ice troupe, have made the adjustment.

"David and Jamie are blowing me away as far as performing," he said. "They're scary good every night. They're so consistent."

And, importantly, they are enjoying themselves as much as the audiences are enjoying them, Browning said.

The other skaters on the show also are among the sport's best:
• Alexei Yagudin, four-time world champion and the 2002 Olympic men's champion with the highest marks every by a single skater in Olympic history.
• Katarina Witt, who won the Olympics twice and the world championships four times.
• Todd Eldredge, a six-time U.S. national champion, a world champion and three-time Olympian.
• Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, three-time U.S. national pair champions.
• Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, 2002 Olympians, 2002 world bronze medalists and three-time U.S. national pair champions.
• Renée Roca and Gorsha Sur, two-time U.S. national dance champions.

©Topeka Capital-Journal 2003