Browning brings expertise to airwaves

GEORGE GROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

It takes about two seconds to land a perfect quad in figure skating, but the memories of the first one can be vividly recalled even 20 years later.

It will be 20 years ago next Tuesday in the Budapest Sportcsarnok (Sports Hall) that Canada's quadruple world champion Kurt Browning created history by being the first male figure skater to land a quadruple toe loop in world championship competition. It was a mesmerizing feat.

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The packed sports hall of the Hungarian capital exploded when he finished his faultless free-skating program and the small group of Canadians kept waving their Canadian flags and hugging each other. I know because I was among them, happy for the accomplishment of the Canadian youngster.

Five judges rewarded him with 5.8 marks, not only for his quad, but also for his overall electrifying performance.

In fact, it was the second time that I was able to cheer for a Canadian figure skater who achieved a move never before accomplished. The other was in 1962 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, when Oshawa's Donald Jackson became the first male figure skater to land a triple Lutz in global competition. That plus a series of triple jumps and fascinating footwork enabled him to become the first Canadian male skater to win a world championship title.

The third Canadian figure skater to land a jump not accomplished by anyone before him was Vern Taylor, who perfected the triple axel at the 1978 world championships in Ottawa.

Getting back to Browning and Budapest, I asked him the other day if he still remembers his performance and the dressing room at the sports hall?

"It was crazy, really crazy," he said. "Landing it (the quad) gave me confidence, a feeling of happiness and carried me through the program. I also remember that one of the skaters complained that the judges gave him lower marks than what he deserved and Brian Orser cracked: 'That's because you are ugly.' I remember that well.

"Thinking back to that day in Budapest two decades ago tells me that I was lucky it ever happened. It had a lot to do with me still skating today."

The multiple world champion is looking forward to his television appearance as the CBC's colour commentator for the coming figure skating world championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

They couldn't have asked a more qualified expert.

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Before the Canadian Olympic Committee decides on the flagbearer for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, it might want to consider a figure skater -- male or female. The record of achievements by this nation's figure skaters is unparalleled in Canadian sports. Starting with Barbara Ann Scott King, who was the first to win gold in the Olympics, which she accomplished in 1948 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. In no particular order they are: Kurt Browning, four times world champion; Elvis Stojko, three times world champion; Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul, Olympic (1960 in Squaw Valley) and world champions; Maria and Otto Jelinek, 1962 pairs world champions in Prague; Olympic pairs champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier; Olympic silver medallist Elizabeth Manley, 1962 world silver medallist Wendy Griner and several others.


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