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Tuesday, April 15, 2003: The Halifax Herald Limited.

Corus Entertainment / File Photo
Kurt Browning and his wife, Sonia Rodriguez, are expecting their first child this summer.
Browning is in town for the annual Stars On Ice show, which takes place Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Halifax Metro Centre.

Browning's going to be a dad
World champ skater in town for annual Stars On Ice tour
By Andrea Nemetz / Entertainment Reporter

Kurt Browning isn't ready to write a sequel to his 1992 autobiography, Kurt Browning: Forcing the Edge.

"I've had offers, but my story is too happy, you need more angst," laughs the four-time world figure skating champion.

And life will soon be even happier for Browning and wife Sonia Rodriguez, a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. The Toronto-based couple, married in July 1996, are expecting a baby boy in July.

While he has a name picked out, Browning, who notes he's never been in a house with a baby before, is keeping it a secret.

And the 36-year-old says he would rather see his son take up skating than ballet. "I'd let him skate if he wants to. Skating is hard, but dance is even harder."

Because of busy touring schedules, Browning and Rodriguez are used to not seeing each other for long periods of time, but a recent visit by Rodriguez to the U.S. Stars On Ice tour was especially welcome. She was in the audience along with Tracie Hamilton, wife of 1984 Olympic Gold medallist Scott Hamilton, who made guest appearances on the U.S. version of the all-star skating spectacular. Newlywed Hamilton is also expecting and Browning says, "to have the two girls watching the show, while Scott and I were skating, knowing our babies were in their bellies, was very special."

Browning and Hamilton are good friends, having spent most of their competitive careers together, as well as eight seasons with Stars On Ice. For the Canadian version of the tour, Browning and 1993 World Pairs Champions Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, will be the only remaining original cast members.

Brasseur and Eisler, two-time Olympic bronze medallists, will be one of four pairs gliding onto the ice when HSBC Stars On Ice hits Halifax Metro Centre Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Making their Halifax debut as a pairs team are 2002 Olympic champions Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, their co-Olympic champions Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya, and 2002 World bronze medallists Kyoka Ina and John Zimmerman.

Also in the cast are 2002 Olympic gold medallist Alexei Yagudin, six-time U.S. national champion Todd Eldredge, eight-time British champion Steven Cousins and five-time Canadian champion Jennifer Robinson, making her Stars On Ice debut.

How will the audience react to the Stars On Ice show at the Metro Centre on Wednesday? 'Halifax is going to freak out,' says Kurt Browning. Other skaters at the show include gold medalists Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, their co-champions Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya, and gold medallist Alexei Yagudin.

"Halifax is going to freak out," says Browning, on the phone from Pittsburgh, stop 41 on the 61-date U.S. tour.

"Halifax is a great skating town and we get a good ego boost starting the tour there (the 11-city Canadian tour wraps up in Vancouver May 4). We got the most standing ovations ever there at Stars On Ice in the early '90s - 16. It felt like a rock show on ice."

In this year's show, Browning skates two very different solos. The first is to Tony Bennett's How Do You Keep The Music Playing.

"It's a great tune about how to keep a relationship alive that's really special this year," he says, alluding to his relationship with Rodriguez. "It's also about the audience, the program says thank you to the audience. I have to stop after the first 30 seconds - it's so special it makes my eyes water."

Browning's eyes also water in his second number to James Cotton's Slippery Side Up, but for a different reason - it's painful, physically. "It's a comedy about a guy trying to get across the ice and he falls and falls. I do part of it with my guards on. It's mostly for the kids."

While it's hard for Browning to choose a preference for performing comedic or dramatic numbers, he says right now comedy has the edge.

Browning actually discussed the difficulty of doing comedy with Queen Elizabeth II on the Queen's Golden Jubilee tour of Canada last summer.

"I did a clown number with a red foam nose and after the performance she laughed and said she'd enjoyed it, then said it must be much more difficult to infuse humour than to do something serious. She's a very kind lady."

Skating for the Queen was much less nerve-wracking than skating in the closing ceremonies at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"I was more nervous for that than when I was competing in the Olympics. KISS was on right after me and it was surreal. There were 65,000 people there and how many millions more watching it on TV?"

While this year's Stars On Ice tour opens with an medley of Ozzy Osbourne tunes, Browning says he would more likely have been playing tunes by the Rolling Stones and the Doors than Osbourne when he was growing up.

These days, Browning enjoys listening to the Barenaked Ladies and the Tragically Hip.

"I listen to the Hip almost every day. They are really fun people, they've done some solos for me and I golf with them.

"I'm also listening to Michael Buble - he's going to be a big star - he's got a Harry Connick Jr. thing going on and he's going to be my musical guest star on my next TV skating special.

"This guy, this voice, this sound is a really good match for Gotta Skate. Gotta Skate will be simpler this year, he's my only guest. We'll have a more sophisticated look. It's for the moms."

Browning will also be on the small screen all this week when he debuts as host on the Biography Channel. He'll introduce spots on Leslie Nielsen tonight, Lance Armstrong Wednesday, Ben Stiller Thursday and Cal Ripken Jr. Friday, all at 9 p.m.

Tickets for Stars On Ice ($35 to $60) are available at the Metro Centre box office, 451-1221.

Copyright © 2003 The Halifax Herald Limited