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Yagudin looking forward to 'dessert'

Source: Regina Leader-Post
Date: May 9, 2002
Author: Nick Miliokas

Copyright 2002 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest Global Communications Corp. All Rights Reserved

Stars On Ice

7:30 p.m., Friday

Agridome

$55-$33

Although he is only 22 years old, Alexei Yagudin has nearly two decades of competitive figure skating behind him and it has been a career that has rewarded him handsomely: three European titles, three world championships, and that gold medal-winning performance at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City last February.

"That's where it all paid off, being on the podium and listening to the Russian national anthem," says Yagudin, who took up the sport at the age of four at his mother's suggestion. "She knew I was interested in athletics, and that competition appealed to me. Figure skating was popular, so I joined.

"It's a really difficult thing," he adds. "But the whole season went exactly as I wanted it to. It's very hard physically. It's very hard emotionally. But now everything is over.

"Eighteen years have suddenly disappeared. For me, the competitive season was like a dinner. Now it's time for dessert."

By that, he means the touring Stars On Ice show, which pays a visit to the Agridome on Friday night with a cast that features (besides Yagudin) Kurt Browning, Kristi Yamaguchi, Brian Orser, Todd Eldredge and Lucinda Ruh as well as Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, and Jenni Meno and Todd Sand.

The camaraderie among performers is one of several things that make this an enjoyable experience for Yagudin. He finds skating in ice shows every bit as physically demanding as competitive skating, but not nearly as demanding emotionally.

"The cast is close. Everyone gets along. That's what makes it so much fun," Yagudin says. "This is also a great opportunity to learn from the other skaters, things like presentation and how to work an audience."

Browning understands what Yagudin is going through in terms of the transition from competitive skating to ice shows. He himself made that adjustment back in 1994. When Browning turned professional, there was an "unknown" named Scott Hamilton, with whom he would sit down and talk.

"My problem was that I tried to compete every night, and I also tried to do a show. It didn't always work out very well," the 32-year-old Browning says.

"This is a tough way to make a living -- but somebody's got to do it," he adds with a laugh, and then goes on to point out that skating in ice shows does in fact make emotional demands as well as the obvious physical ones.

Although the judges are no longer there, there is still an audience every night. A self-described perfectionist, Browning doesn't like to ever make mistakes. He is determined to skate his very best, at the highest level possible, in every show.

"When it's good, it's good," he says. "When it's bad, it affects everything."

A four-time Canadian and world champion, Browning now looks back on his competitive career as having been "boring, almost. I won often enough to enjoy it and lost often enough to learn what that was about, too," he says.

Browning believes the transition from competitive skating to ice shows is easier these days because the young skaters are much tougher. He mentions Yagudin as an example. "Alexei is much more of a skater and a performer than I was when I was an amateur," Browning says.

And, like Yagudin, Browning sees the chemistry among cast members as a significant reason for the show's success. "The closeness is emotional, so it raises the engery level," he says.

There is also the fact that Yamaguchi has rejoined the Canadian tour after an absence of several years, and in all likelihood, it will be her final tour. Says Browning: "I think this is a really important tour for the skaters personally."