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Kurt gets his girl: skating champion Browning proposes while taping a

Source: Western Report
Date: May 15, 1996

As a world champion skater, Kurt Browning has experienced many great moments on ice.

But none could prepare the Caroline native for what happened two weeks ago, when ballerina Sonia Rodriguez accepted his impromptu marriage proposal during a

Stars On Ice performance at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens.

The skating extravaganza, taped by CBC for airing next fall, had taken a break.

To fill time, Mr. Browning fielded audience questions. "Are you married?" a little girl sitting rinkside meekly asked.

Mr. Browning grinned.

"No," he replied, "but that gives me an idea."

Skating to his lady-love's section, he called out, "Where are you, honey?"

Miss Rodriguez stood and waved.

"How about it?" asked Mr. Browning as the stunned audience fell silent.

Dropping one knee to the ice, he declared: "You know I love you with all my heart.

Will you marry me?"

Flushed, with spotlights centred on her, Miss Rodriguez nodded, then rushed down to embrace him.

Finally, in a scene that could have been lifted from a fairy tale, Mr. Browning swept up his betrothed and skated off to thunderous applause.

It was really out of the blue.

I had no clue and he didn't either," recounts Miss Rodriguez, a second soloist with the National Ballet of Canada.

"He said it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time."

The love match between the 28-year-old skater and the 22-year-old ballerina is the culmination of a chance 1990 meeting in Edmonton. Their fateful encounter occurred at a National Ballet reception at the Royal Glenora club, Mr. Browning's practice facility.

Miss Rodriguez hadn't planned to attend, "but I ended up going because someone else didn't want to."

Kurt "didn't really feel like going, either," she recalls.

"He just popped his head in and gradually they pulled him in."

The pair struck up a conversation, and Miss Rodriguez asked if she could watch him practise.

The next day, she sat rinkside with some fellow dancers watching his famous spins and jumps.

Afterward, Mr. Browning invited them to join him on ice only Miss Rodriguez accepted. "I had never been on skates.

I put those things on and it was quite hilarious," she laughs.

"He kept holding me through the whole thing and I kept slipping everywhere.

It was a lot of fun."

They kept in touch, and romance blossomed in 1992 after Mr. Browning retired from amateur skating and headed to Toronto to pursue his professional career.

By then, he had captured four world championships with his trademark combination of athleticism and grace.

That, along with his winning personality and clean-cut good looks, won him a legion of loyal fans his parents' ranch will receive about 4,000 fan letters this year.

As a pro, Mr. Browning tours North America with Stars On Ice for five months a year.

Miss Rodriguez, who has just started rehearsing for the new National Ballet season, visits every weekend.

"It's a lot of travelling for both of us," she admits.

Although not yet a star of her fiancee's magnitude, Miss Rodriguez is a talented performer in her own right.

Born in Toronto and raised in Spain, she joined Monaco's Princess Grace Academy at age 13.

The pretty, blue-eyed brunette caught the attention of the National Ballet School's director in 1989 by placing first in an international dance competition in Capri, Italy.

She joined the Toronto-based troupe the next year.

Mr. Browning has twice taken her to Caroline, which was, she found, "a bit of a culture shock.

I'd never been to a small town like that. The people were very nice, very friendly.

I had never been on a horse, so it was like a dream come true I was riding horses every day."

The pair have yet to set their wedding date, but Miss Rodriguez says it will likely occur in Toronto with celebratory parties in Caroline and Spain.

As for children, they'll have to wait.

"He has his skating and I have my own career," she notes.

"For now that's the priority."