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Hughes isn't golden, but Stars on Ice shine

Source: Sioux City Journal
Date: February 2, 2005
Author: Bruce R. Miller

Sarah Hughes didn't turn in a gold medal-winning performance during the Smucker's Stars on Ice show Tuesday night, but she did exhibit plenty of charm.

Perhaps more than a year away from the ice will do that to a woman who used to spin like a top. During two solo numbers (one to "Raindrops Will Fall," the other to a touching "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"), she had plenty of artistic style but little more than a jump or two in each. She was game for several of the group numbers and even did some magic in the show's filler. But fans probably wanted to see that come-from-behind pluck. Instead, Hughes offered up maturity and suggested, in time, she may grow into a good ice show addition.

Now, she's still in her rookie year.

What fans probably noticed was that some of the most daring, complex work was turned in by the skaters who didn't win gold -- Todd Eldredge, Yuka Sato and Kurt Browning. The three had considerable style on ice and did attempt those triples. Heck, Browning even did a cartwheel.

The real risk taker was gold medalist Alexei Yagudin. Not satisfied with fancy footwork (his hallmark) he tried a little gymnastics with Peter Gabriel's "Passion." Borrowing a page from Mel Gibson's film, Yagudin hung from a piece of fabric, suspended from the ceiling. He did an iron cross and enough flips and turns to qualify for Cirque du Soleil. But his best stuff? Those flawless jumps on the ice. Clearly, he deserved his gold. On his second number, "Shout," he pulled a Phillipe Candelero and worked the women in the crowd with plenty of poses and audience interaction. The crowd ate it up.

Pair skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were great, too, in both acts. The first found them doing those lifts that take your breath away; the second dished up plenty of dance moves through the ages. They appeared as disco dancers, rappers -- even wedding chicken dancers -- in the medley.

Sadly, their fellow Olympic gold winners -- Jamie Sale and David Pelletier -- didn't do their two solo spots, presumably due to injury. They did participate in the group numbers. But last year, they were clearly wowsers. This year: They were a reminder of what might have been.

While some of the magic tricks (done to lead from one number to another) were marginal, they had a better way of unifying the show. Last year's "time" theme just ticked people off.

If there was a surprise in the show it was Steven Cousins. He did well in the group numbers, then showed he knew how to do the triples in his solo "Come Back to Bed."

While founder Scott Hamilton wasn't in this year's edition, Browning -- his former rival -- more than filled the bill. He did two numbers as a dad fooling around in his son's toy box. Browning had the jumps, the turns, the footwork and the surprises to warrant his star billing. He threw a football (well enough to qualify for the Bandits) and jumped rope on the ice. He got tangled up during the number, but redid the segment before his bows. "Wanna see what it was supposed to look like?" he asked. Maintaining the Hamilton tradition, he even yukked it up by pouring water on his Scott-like head.

A rain segment ended the first act (yup, it rained inside the Tyson Events Center); "Mr. Blue Sky" opened the second one.

Yuka Sato did a beautiful job with "Amazing Grace" and she, too, tripled around the rink.

In time, Hughes will probably be in the same league as her colleagues.

But now, she's very much the student, attending school with some real masters.