From Mishaps to Magic
Ode to Kurt: Browning Discovers' triumph at last
Stylish skater no longer is down on either his luck or the ice
||Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|
||February 9, 1996|
Copyright 1996 Journal Sentinel Inc.
When the world was watching the Olympics, he was battling physical
and psychological problems. And just as figure skating moved into the
post-Nancy/Tonya bonanza of big-money professional competitions, he was
troubled by uncomfortable skating boots.
Today, however, Kurt Browning is fit from his head to his toe picks,
giving his many fans cause to celebrate. Once again, one of the sport's
most personable entertainers is getting the chance to shine.
"I had some pretty good years as an amateur, but it's not as
rewarding day-to-day as it is as a pro," said Browning, preparing for
two Wisconsin appearances with Discover Card Stars on Ice Sunday and
Monday. "My performance level is much higher this year."
Browning appreciates the peaks because he's seen the valleys. He was
a three-time world champion entering the 1992 Olympics, but a slipped
disk two months before the Games resulted in a sixth-place finish.
He regained his form and won another world title in 1993, only to
falter in the '94 Games. Two falls during the warm-ups rattled his
confidence, leading to an uncharacteristic fall and a watered-down jump
in the technical program. That sent Browning sinking to 12th place,
though he did manage to lift himself to fifth in the final standings.
"That's what the Olympics is all about, and that's what made it
interesting," said Browning.
Browning joined the Stars cast for its 1994-'95 season and
participated in several professional meets.
His skating, however, was uneven; he was brilliant in the tour's
Milwaukee stop, but he struggled with his jumps in competitions.
"I got a new pair of skates last year, and they just wouldn't break
in," he mused. "Later, we found out they had been made back in '88 and
they had sat on the shelf all that time. They were dry, and they just
wouldn't break in.
"It was a lot of bad luck. It's almost like a mold in your fridge it
just keeps growing."
Eventually, the skating boots became more comfortable. And several
conversations with fellow Stars skater Scott Hamilton convinced Browning
that the funk wouldn't last forever.
"He's a smart man and a good friend," Browning said of Hamilton,
"and he helped me turn things around."
This season, Browning became the first man to defeat Olympic winner
Brian Boitano in the history of the NutraSweet World Professional
Championships. The gyrating, high-energy number that won Browning the
title was skated to the Commodores' "Brick House," a contrast to his
stylish "Casablanca" 1994 Olympic program. Browning says he enjoys
surprising the skating world with his musical selections.
"I try really hard not to be one type of skater. I choreographed a
Romeo and Juliet number, and someone with Stars on Ice said, Now that
you're on a classical kick, I guess you won't be wanting to skate to
'Brick House.' "
Browning, 29, admires much about Hamilton but has no intention of
emulating the 1984 Olympic champion's longevity.
"I don't think I want to be on tour six, seven months a year when
I'm 37. I hope I'll be more of a family person. But the next three to
four years, I'll go as hard as I can."
In fact, Browning squeezed in his interview between flights as he
rejoined the tour after a weekend in Toronto, where he'll marry Sonia
Rodriguez next summer.
The death of pairs skater Sergei Grinkov, which occurred just before
the Stars tour began, added to Browning's perspective on the relative
importance of skating.
"Sergei and (wife) Katia (Gordeeva) represent the perfection on the
ice all of us reach for that never, ever touching the ice or looking for
one another or making it look like work," said Browning. "A lot of
people think it's glamorous touring, but it's tough to have
relationships, and off the ice, they were really, really, truly happy."
Kurt Browning says he tries not to be one kind of skater, feeling
free to glide to the classics or "Brick House."