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O Canada! Favorite Son Browning Joins Discover Tour '97

Source: The Tulsa World
Date: January 26, 1997
Author: John A. Ferguson

Copyright 1997 The Tulsa World

Kurt Browning, Canada's four-time World figure skating champion, is looking forward to his Tulsa visit with the Discover Stars on Ice Monday night.

There's good reason, too. The 30-year-old son of a Caroline, Alberta, cowboy will have his parents (Dewey and Neva) and brother, Wade, in the audience at the Tulsa Convention Center Arena.

A 60-city tour, which concludes in the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine, March 29, is the major reason Browning's family has to plan reunions along the way.

While Sonia, Browning's bride of six months, won't be here, she will be in his thoughts.

"I've planned my program around a medley of Nate 'King' Cole music,' said Browning in an interview from San Francisco. 'It's my gift for my wife.' Browning's parents raise cattle in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Caroline, population 294. His dad also guides pack trips into the picturesque Alberta countryside.

Young Browning wasn't destined to be a cowboy. Instead, just as any other red-blooded Canadian, he grew up playing hockey.

"Isn't that what you're supposed to do as a Canadian," Browning quipped.

However, when a choice between hockey and figure skating had to be made, Browning made the right choice. And he credited the tour with giving him the freedom to express himself on the ice as a professional.

"It's a different kind of pressure from amateur competition," said Browning. "The fans expect you to skate to the level of your proficiency every night. We're fortunate, because we get paid for something we love to do. And everybody is wanting our autographs at the end of a performance. That doesn't happen when you leave the office at the end of an 8-to-5 day."

Browning felt his first exposure to fame and distinction came when he turned a quadruple jump into a winning at the 1988 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

"That turned my career around," Browning recalled.

At Halifax in 1990 -- before a crowd of his countrymen -- he doubled his triple axel in a short program and landed another triple axel with two seconds left to win his second World Championship.

While he had the crowning touch at the world level, he didn't enjoy such success in the Olympics in 1988, 1992 and 1994. In his debut, he finished eighth in Calgary, Alberta.

"I was injured in 1992 at Albertville (France), and shouldn't have competed," said Browning.

Instead, he made a valiant effort and finished sixth.

But it was his performance at Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994, that is forever etched in Browning's memory.

"When I was warming up, I knew I had more negatives than positives. I lacked concentration and made some bad decisions," Browning said. "It was awful, and I came in fifth."

Yet after that inauspicious performance, he received 2,000 faxes the next day from fellow Canadians expressing their love and concern for him.

That response gave Browning the boost to go on -- and go on he did, making three television specials in which he recreating Gene Kelly's "Singing in the Rain" on ice, and assumed the roles of a Philip Marlowe-style detective, a sexy rock star, a classically-trained dancer and a vaudeville entertainer in "You Must Remember This."

His first TV special, entitled "Tall in the Saddle," also featured outdoor scenes from his native Alberta.

The Discover Card Stars on Ice group is a family on tour for Browning.

Browning speaks of Paul Wylie like a brother.

"Ever since he won the silver at Albertville, he has become a Wonder Boy in interpretation on the ice," said Browning. "He was the right person at the right time."

Browning, in his "snake" routine, demonstrated a dramatic new style of movement at a professional competition at Ottawa (Ontario) Canada.

"That was a little scary, because I didn't know how the judges would react," said Browning.

The judges approved.

Browning, who has developed into one of the best entertainers the sport has produced, credited his success as a professional to "growing up and gaining confidence."

And Browning tempers all this talent with a sense of humor. He cites as an accomplishment he would be most proud of: "Thinking I'll be able to do a triple jump at the age of 65."

The Discover Card Stars on Ice, comprised of champions, is like "a big family" to Browning.

"I like to build up momentum on the tour. Unlike baseball, there's no room for a no-hitter on the ice," said Browning. "That's why we need to stay away from injuries. I like to think of Kristy's (Yamaguchi) remark, 'We need to skate up to our names and levels. "' Browning, will be joined on the ice at the Tulsa show by such skating luminaries as former Olympic champions in Scott Hamilton of the United States and Great Britain's dance team of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean and silver medalist Rosalynn Sumners, who rose to fame at the 1984 Olympic at Sarajevo -- before Yugoslavia became a divided warring country.

Jill Trenary, 1990 World Champion and wife of Dean, is skating despite an inflammed tendon.