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What makes the stars shine?

(Chrysler Stars on Ice; special advertising supplement)

Source: Chatelaine, v70 n3 p128(1).
Date: March 1997
Abstract: Canada's favorite skating stars Kurt Browning, Brian Orser, and Josee Chouinard attribute their success to ambition, determination and love of skating. They also cite the positive impact of close family relationships.

Full Text COPYRIGHT 1997 Maclean Hunter Ltd. (Canada)

They're talented, they're determined, they're great performers...and they love what they do!

Four-time world champion Kurt Browning easily admits he "never dreamed of becoming world champion until just a month or two before I won the title." Brian Orser, two-time Olympic silver medalist, describes his rise to the top of the skating world as something that "just kind of happened by itself." And two-time Olympic bronze medalist Isabelle Brasseur, who recently received a degree in business, started college with the notion that it was "something to fall back on if skating didn't work out."

It's easy to forget that only a few short years ago, these were just ordinary Canadian kids - kids who have since grown up to become extraordinary skating superstars!

By nature, they all have their differences. For example, Browning, three-time Canadian champion Josee Chouinard and two-time Olympic bronze medalist Lloyd Eisler were always very outgoing as kids. Orser and Brasseur, on the other hand, were extremely timid as children. "I was so shy, it was difficult being around large groups of kids at school. Skating was easier, I've never felt shy on the ice," says Brasseur.

On the whole, though, there are some very strong similarities. When the skaters describe themselves, and when others speak about them, the same words crop up over and over again; words like "determined," "resolute," "hard-working," "inspired," "energetic" and "gifted." And they're achievers - even as kids in school, the Chrysler Stars On Ice skaters were determined to be on top. "Kurt was an excellent student. He could have been at the top of his class if he hadn't been so busy skating," says Browning's sister, Dena Miller.

While most of the skaters were naturally bright students, they were also very hardworking. Eisler did a lot of his homework in the car, as did Orser. "I hated being behind everyone when I was skating a lot. I would do extra work to try and stay one step ahead," says Orser. Orser's sister, Mary Kay Melnyk, says proudly, "He's a gentle guy, even humble about his success. But he's tough when he has to be. He was like that about school, and about his skating."

Chouinard says that all the skaters have close relationships with their families. Many of them grew up with very hard-working parents, who set a good example and motivated them to skate. "My father died when I was 12, and my mother was determined that my brother and I would not have to change our life style. She worked very hard to make sure I could continue skating," says Chouinard. Brasseur attributes much of her success to her deceased father, who encouraged her every step of the way. And Browning's family traveled the world, supporting him at competitions. His mother, Neva Browning, recalls, "We just told him to take one day at a time. We never had great expectations for him, because we didn't want to burden him. We'd just tell him to do the best he could."

Of course, the stars are outstanding skaters and remarkable performers, but these talents developed over time. Most started out simply as good skaters with exceptional drive, ambition and love of skating. Michael Jiranek, who coached Browning early in the skater's career in Edmonton, says, "Kurt was like many other young skaters, talent-wise. But he loved to skate, loved to compete and, as a result, was successful." The extraordinary ability, Jiranek explains, came later on. Louis Stong, who coached Browning and Chouinard during their later amateur years, explains that their talent has grown as they have matured, both as skaters and people.

Not surprising, most of the skaters plan to continue working in the profession long after they stop competing and performing, by coaching and commentating for television. Lloyd Eisler is busy working in the business side of skating. "I'm very involved in the marketing, advertising and production sides of skating and sports. All the years of competition, discipline and dedication have helped me realize that you don't get things handed to you on a silver platter. You have to work for them. But it also means that your potential is unlimited."

And this kind of dedication pretty much sums up the career of a skating superstar. Doug Leigh, Orser's coach, says it best: "The skating stars are all great athletes, with a tremendous will to win. They believe in themselves and what they are capable of doing. They have the ability to go out there and perform." Most important, they will all admit this one very important fact: they love every minute of it!