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Ice skater rejoins tour, prepares for Maine show

Source: Bangor Daily News
Date: April 7, 2000
Author: Dale McGarrigle

Copyright 2000 Bangor Daily News

Kurt Browning will have come full circle Saturday night in Portland, after the 7:30 show by Target Stars on Ice.

Two years ago, Browning and his mates in the Stars on Ice tour said goodbye to the retiring Paul Wylie at the season-ending show at the Cumberland County Civic Center. But, unknown to his tourmates, the Canadian figure skater wasn't going to be with them either in 1999.

"In the back of my mind, I'd been debating whether to take a year off, and I decided tothat night," Browning recalled by phone.

The four-time world amateur champion took off the American leg of the tour, rejoining it when it came north to his homeland. He spent time with his family, did some TV color commentary and competed in various professional and pro-am championships.

The 33-year-old Browning, who has also won three world professional titles, is one of the more seasoned skaters still competing against recent amateurs. He feels such competitions are important to keep his skills sharp.

"It's just such an opportunity to make what I'm doing count today, to compete against the recent Olympians," he explained. "You don't want to forget what it's like to go out and compete, to test yourself. "

But before Browning was ready, a year had flown by, and he's now back to entertaining Stars on Ice fans again. He's doing two solo numbers, one dancing to the Wild Cherry song "Play That Funky Music" and another portraying a bumbling clown in "Rag-GIDON-time. "

Browning is considered one of the top entertainers in skating today. He credits a lot of his growth as a showman to the influence of tour founder Scott Hamilton.

"It's a heckuva a lot more fun skating in front of 10,000 friends than 10,000 strangers," he said. "There's an exchange between the performer and the people who paid to come see him. I've learned a lot from Scott, who says he's there for the people. He says, 'It's not our show, it's their show. "'

Like most boys in western Canada, the Alberta native grew up playing hockey. But he also discovered figure skating along the way.

"I didn't cut out [pictures of] skaters and put them on my wall," he recalled. "I just loved going to the rink and doing the skating. I took me a long time to get to where I am now. I led a very normal life as a normal guy. "

After he began to succeed as a skater, Browning returned home to perform an exhibition. That's when many of his hockey buddies discovered his other life.

"My friends were utterly confused and couldn't figure it out," he said. "They said, 'We didn't know you could skate. ' I became something different to them. " Other than wanting to spend more time with his wife of three years, dancer Sonia Rodriguez, Browning isn't looking ahead to his life after skating. He figures he'll have quite a fewmore years with Stars on Ice.

"It's a wonderful place to grow as a skater," he said. "As long as I'm having this much fun and I'm able, I'll be here. "

Tickets remain for Target Stars on Ice, and are available at the Cumberland County Civic Center box office or Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling 775-3458 or 775-3331.

GRAPHIC: Kurt Browning (center) with tourmates Scott Hamilton (front) and Ilia Kulik (rear).