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Stars skate into Ottawa fans' hearts

Source: Ottawa Citizen
Date: April 14, 1994
Author: Martin Cleary

Copyright 1994 Southam Inc.

SunLife Stars on IceThe Ottawa Civic CentreMonday night only

Kurt Browning tried and tried and tried, but try as he might his Olympic medal dream was nothing more than a five-ring scream.

Missing the Olympic medals three times in a career when you're a four-time world champion is enough to make you want to snap your skate laces on purpose.

Well, at least there's professional figure skating, where Browning can glide on to any ice surface in the world, feel loved, and not have to fret about doing any required elements, how much the judges will crucify him for a fall or dealing with the media.

This is where all your dreams come true and others' as well.

Ninety minutes before Browning and a group of world-renowned skaters gave a SunLife Stars on Ice performance Monday worth remembering, he made life a lot more special for Almonte's Jennifer Atack.

Watching the show from her hospital stretcher because an extremely rare form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis prevents her from sitting up, Atack had a dream come true when she met her hero.

"It was exciting and I learned a lot, Atack, 21, said in her soft voice. "He is the type of sportsman I thought he would be.

The skater from Caroline, Alta., not only visited Atack for 20 minutes, but he also gave her a program autographed by all the skaters and brought Olympic skater Josee Chouinard to her bedside.

Browning was outstanding in his two solo numbers at the sold out Civic Centre. He was the only skater to link to the crowd, and they responded by cheering every move.

Skating to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Blues Berry Hill , bad-guy Browning exchanged his hat with an ice-level young boy, and was ready to draw his imaginary guns on a woman -- until he threw her a kiss.

In his final number before the cast closer, the fun-loving Browning became a more serious and technical Kurt. He didn't forget his amateur roots, landing a triple triple-jump combination.

But Browning was not alone as the one-night-only show brought along a hall of fame cast of skaters who spanned the past two decades.

Brian Orser admitted that the skaters were tired coming into Ottawa after four shows in four nights and said, "We'll need some help tonight.

The crowd responded with a cheer and never let up, although not all the skaters could plug into the electricity.

Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler skated a touching tribute to her father in the first act, accented with numerous extended lifts.

Their second number was upbeat and heart-pounding as they flawlessly executed numerous death-defying tricks.

Besides Browning, Brasseur and Eisler were the only skaters to receive authentic standing ovations.

Kristi Yamaguchi was gripping as Juliet and Soviet skaters Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov, and Natalia Annenko and Genrich Sretenski, who were only ordinary in their solos, beautifully framed the American's dramatization.

Toller Cranston is in his early 40s but skates as if he is 20 years younger. His ballet on ice can still cast a web over his audience.

He made eyes pop when he performed a one-metre-high Russian split jump from the crouch position. But he tried to do too much in his second solo and was out of touch with Luciano Pavarotti's Torna a Surriento .

Christine Hough and Doug Ladret were the epitome of high energy as they moved and grooved in upbeat fashion.

Josee Chouinard was disappointing as she resurrected Olympic and world championship memories by falling on a triple jump.

Katarina Witt took the crowd back to the Lillehammer Olympics. Her free-skating tribute to the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics lost some of its edge because of irritating mistakes, but her Robin Hood number had more zest.

The Olympic Games were to be Browning's final shining moment, but someone forgot to bring the boot polish. One fall made Browning a medal watcher rather than winner.

But two months after the Games, Browning was being wildly cheered at the Civic Centre as a four-time world and national champion. The Olympic results were OK in the minds of the crowd.

Browning has found his future and it doesn't include a panel of nine judges but rather an arena of wildly cheering and forgiving fans.