Browning still has champion's touch

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

Kurt Browning has never got into an on-ice dustup in his distinguished figure skating career but he's prepared.

Detroit Red Wings power forward Brendan Shanahan taught him how to fight on skates.

"He taught me what he called The Shandango in case I ever got into it with Elvis Stojko," Browning said with a chuckle yesterday at the John Labatt Centre, where he was helping publicize the world team figure skating challenge competition on Dec. 4. "He said to grab the guy's shirt with both hands, keep your head down, lift your head up, take a punch and then throw a right."

The four-time world champion and the former London Knight spent time together when they dated twins Monique and Ingrid Kavalaars of Appin. There was never a dull moment.

"The whole thing was so funny -- this figure skater and this hockey player dating these wonderful twins."

Monique is now a member of the Canadian Olympic fencing team and Ingrid is an actor.

"I remember Brendan trying to teach Ingrid how to fight in the parking lot," he said. "We had fun times. I ran into him when Team Canada won the (2002) Olympics. I was talking on the phone and he came up and tapped his gold medal against the mouthpiece so my friend could hear it."

If there ever was a guy who melded artistry, athleticism and fun, it's Browning. After spending some time with a group of tiny tots learning to skate, Brown gave A-Channel's John Kowalski a one-zone head start for a race around the rink.

When they came down the backstretch, Browning dived for the blue-line to win . . . and skidded straight into the gate to the Knights' dressing room.

Browning is 39 and after a life of competition welcomes the opportunity to continue. He says he won't hold back when the four teams -- Canada, U.S., Russia and Europe -- meet a week from tomorrow.

"This revives your competitive spirit," he said. "Basically, I'll try to do a couple of things I don't put into exhibition numbers, like a triple-triple (back-to-back triple toe loops). We've won it the past two years with Russia a close second."

The first skater to land a quadruple jump in competition figures he can skate for some time yet. He figures his body is in better shape as a result of training methods.

"I'm in better shape as a pro than I ever was as an amateur. Extreme back problems had a lot to do with the way I was landing my jumps.

"With age comes knowledge. In my day, we didn't do much off-ice training. I haven't missed one day because of my back. As an amateur, I was to the Olympics but wasn't really there (because of his back)."

Browning feels North American skating power has waned while that of the rest of the world, particularly in China, has improved.

"I don't think we're providing the champions of a human calibre we once did. Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Brian Orser, I think myself, Elvis Stojko, Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi.

"Now the Russians are so good and the Chinese -- the Chinese are going to conquer skating next, that's for sure.

"We just don't have those affable characters to go to to build on. Emmanuel Sandu is difficult to bank on as a person and as a competitor so Canada can't seem to get behind him. We haven't had a girl step up to the plate since Josee (Chouinard). We just don't have the star quality we used to."

The guy who used to skate with the Edmonton Oilers as honorary captain started his two-year-old son Gabriel on skates last week.

"They're double-runner bobskates (former U.S. star) Dick Button sent me; Gabriel loves it."

Maybe one day as much as his old man.


Videos

Photos