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Hamilton exits in graceful style

Source: Harrisburg Patriot-News
Date: March 30, 2001
Author: Barry Fox

It's dubbed a farewell tour, but there will be no retirement.

And, if you didn't know about the show beforehand you might even miss the whole goodbye thing entirely.

"It's not maudlin, it's not overdone," said four-time world skating champion Kurt Browning from his hotel in Raleigh, N.C., about this year's Target Stars On Ice, Scott Hamilton's last. "It's subtle, respectful and touching. The end of the show could be a tearjerker though."

Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, who founded Stars On Ice and has produced and headlined the tour for 14 years, has said the time has come for new challenges.

"I'm not retiring," Hamilton, 42, says in the tour's press materials. "I'm not going to stop skating. I'm cutting back. There's so much else I want to accomplish ... This year will give me the opportunity to let people know how grateful I am to them, for everything. It's tough to move on, but I have to."

The latest edition of the 65-city tour began in November and will wind its way around the country before concluding in early April.

This year's cast includes Olympic champions Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Ilia Kulik; world champion Yuka Sato; Olympic silver medalist Denis Petrov; three-time U.S. National Pair Champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand; two-time U.S. dance champions Rene Roca and Gorsha Sur; and eight-time British champion Steven Cousins.

Stars On Ice makes its annual visit to Hersheypark Arena Tuesday for a sold-out show at 7:30 p.m. Readers may call 534-3911 or log on to www.starsonice.com for more information.

Browning, in his sixth season with Stars On Ice, will succeed Hamilton as the show's headliner next year, a role the gregarious Canadian said he inherits based on chronology.

"I'm the next oldest guy," the 34-year-old said. "But there are similarities between our styles, I do comedy, and take pride in my footwork, we share some traits."

As far as being the defacto leader of the tour "there might be a few things that need taken care of like picking up a microphone and leading by example," he said.

Assuring that Stars On Ice continues to evolve is something Hamilton has emphasized throughout his tenure and something Browning plans to continue.

"We really do need to think about the future," Browning said.

But a nod to the past is what this year's tour is all about, subtle or not. Hamilton gets a chance to say thanks to the fans, and his colleagues get to honor one of the most respected and liked men in skating.

"Growing up in Canada he was a guy I could identify with," Browning said. "He didn't just loan himself to the audience, he gave himself to them."

As a skater, Browning said he still marvels at Hamilton's technical skill with his feet. As a friend he's enjoyed Hamilton's sense of humor and his tireless mission to uphold the integrity of skating. As a man he has the deepest respect for Hamilton's ability to overcome numerous injuries and a 1997 bout with testicular cancer.

"This year I've been looking up to his guts," Browning said. "He keeps coming back from some hard places."