||January 24, 1997|
Copyright 1997 The Austin American-Statesman
Stars On Ice
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday--*WHERE: Travis County Exposition
Center--*TICKETS: Tickets for $35 and $25 are available from --the
University of Texas Ticketmaster. Call (512) 477-6060.
WHO: Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, Jayne Torvill and Christopher
D--ean, Paul Wylie, Kurt Browning, Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov,
Rosalynn Sumners, Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny, Jill Trenary and
Kurt Browning finds himself in the ever-popular world of figure
skating at just the right time.
A decade ago, mainstream America tended to forget those figure
skaters they fell in love with at the Winter Olympics, although the
athletes were presented up close and personal for a fortnight every four
Now these figure skaters are everywhere. Their amateur and Olympic
lives are long behind them, but they perform in numerous tours, like
Discover's Stars on Ice, which stops Saturday at the Travis County Expo
Center, and compete at a dozen or so major professional competitions.
Fox and CBS in particular have created several made-for-television
skating competitions to take advantage of the sport's popularity. CBS
did so because it lost the right to show the National Football League
and it needed something to fill up its Sunday afternoon lineups. A
prime-time special on Fox last week, which featured seven pro skaters
performing routines to rock music and judged by such authorities as
Olympic gold-medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken, model Kim Alexis and
gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, drew 12.2 million viewers.
Browning finished second to Scott Hamilton during the rock 'n' roll
Used to be, drawing a (viewership) like that only happened at the
Olympics and once in your life,'' said Browning, who will perform
Saturday in Austin to a medley of Nat King Cole songs. The number has
drawn standing ovations at every Stars on Ice tour stop.
It's staggering to think how popular skating has gotten,'' he said.
I'm pretty darn lucky to be skating right now. Used to be, the
opportunity to perform and work wasn't there.''
The 30-year-old Browning, a native of Canada, concedes that during
his amateur career, he usually pulled off about one perfect competition
a year, that being the world championships. He was a four-time world
champion, but although he was favored to win an Olympic gold medal, he
never did so. His mistakes allowed other skaters to take that glory.
But because viewership is so high, particularly among women,
Browning has become one of the most popular skaters among the
professionals despite his lack of Olympic hardware. He has won the last
two world pro championships, and he's considered the best overall skater
in the world.
He started out his athletic career as a hockey player. But since
then he has combined his athleticism -- he was the first skater ever to
land a quadruple jump in competition -- with a grace that has made him
unbeatable in pro events. He's known for his intricate footwork and a
rapport with the audience. He won his first world pro title skating to
the Commodores' Brick House.''
The exhibitions he skates still are athletic -- he throws in five
triple jumps, about two fewer than he did when he was an amateur -- and
he also plans to work more on the quadruple once the Stars on Ice tour
ends in late March.
Pro skating also is paying more, although it doesn't compare yet to
football, baseball or basketball. Browning picked up $50,000 for
winning the 1996 pro title. And the highest paycheck to date was earned
by Hamilton, who got $400,000 for winning an event.
Eventually, I can work my way up to being a millionaire,'' Browning