Kurt rocks

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

CALGARY -- Other than the fact it was pathetic, it was perfect.

In the same Saddledome where he skated to an eighth-place finish at the 1988 Olympics to first enter the Canadian consciousness, Kurt Browning entered the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame here yesterday.

The ceremonies were woeful. But the time and place for arguably the greatest singles skater in history were ideal.

The son of a mountain guide and outfitter from nearby Caroline, Browning remembered the day he drove his 1973 Buick LeSabre down here from Edmonton.

"I expected the Olympics to be something exotic and far away, not something I could drive my 70-foot Buick three hours to get to. That was disappointing to me. Until I got here. But once I got there I realized we were the exotic place for all the other people. I felt like a hero when I wore my red jacket and white cowboy hat and walked downtown and met people. It was just a huge Canadian rock star experience."

I don't know how much Browning felt like a hero or rock star with about 4,000 fans in the stands for the quickie, largely content-free, ceremonies at the end of the original dance here yesterday. But he appreciated both the time and the place.

"At Skate Canada here in 1987, I almost landed the quad. It was right there," he pointed to the almost exact spot where he stood after receiving the honour (along with Robin Cousins of Great Britain, Canadian builder Donald Gilchrist and Frank Zamboni, inventor of the ice flooding machine).

Browning told about Donald Jackson, Canada's first world men's champion, who was paraded into the Calgary '88 closing ceremonies riding a sleigh.

"He stopped the sleigh and came over and said 'Go to Budapest and land the quad!' "

GOING TO BUDAPEST

Browning went to Budapest and was the first to ever land a quad in competition. The next year he went to Paris and won the first of his four Worlds and also became the first to do a triple-triple-triple jump.

Browning said he was delighted it could happen here because this was the Worlds and his dad and brother were here.

"My dad gave up a vacation in Florida for this. Trust me - for him that's amazing!"

The on-ice ceremonies were so bad Browning didn't even have a chance to speak to the audience. He said if he'd had that chance he knew what he'd have said.

"I would have quoted my dad telling me 'You're the luckiest kid in the world because you are doing for a living what you did as a kid. You make in a year what I made in my life. And if you let it go to your head, I'll kick you with my cowboy boots on.' "

It caught a lot of people off guard when Browning hugged Ottavio Cinquanta when the head of the ISU presented him with his Hall of Fame medal and plaque.

"I did that for you," he laughed of this columnist, remembering when Cinquanta wouldn't allow him to skate as part of the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Worlds in Edmonton because he was a pro. Singer Michael Burgess got even by turning his part of the show to a duet with Browning to keep him in the show. The editorial comment which followed was part of what became a public outcry against Cinquanta, who was booed by a sold-out crowd every time he took his seat. For the closing ceremonies, the ISU decided to bring Browning back to be an on-ice celebration..

STILL HAD HAIR

He still had hair back then.

"At the 1991 Worlds I had a terrible haircut. Today, I wanted it back."

Browning, who has managed to remain the star of the skate show circuit, said the thing which impresses him most about his career is that he still has one.

"I didn't ever expect to be 40 and still be doing it. Since I was a kid, I just loved it. Recently I was driving home and saw a pond and went out there and skated for two and a half hours. I still love it."

Ever since he became a show skater, Browning has heard the same words as he took his place under the spotlight.

"I've heard 'four-time world champion' in introductions so many times I stopped hearing it," he said. "Now it's real."

And now it's official. He's all Hall of Famer. It's been shocking that it took this long.

"I guess I thought it was the Olympic thing. I didn't get one of these things hung around my neck," he said of failing to win a medal in his three Olympic appearances.

He said it's still not easy for him to watch the Olympics.

"It does eat at you a bit. I don't deny it.

"I wish I'd done a triple toe instead of triple flip at Lillehammer in the short. And on tour sometimes I'll land a double Axel when I'm way off and tell myself 'Why didn't I do that at the Olympics.

"I'm glad they gave me a medal for this and not just the plaque."


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