Interview with Kurt Browning
Kurt Interview Transcript from CJOB (Winnipeg) with Richard Cloutier
Dec. 3, 2004
RC: Richard Cloutier (host)
KB: Kurt Browning
RC: Richard Cloutier in for Kacey Wilson. The world's top
skaters from Canada, Russia, United States, and Europe will compete
head-to-head in a judged figure skating competition in one week, next
Friday Dec. 10 beginning at 7:30 at the MTS Center. Kurt Browning,
4-time World Figure Skating Champion, 4-time Canadian Champion, joins
us live on CJOB 68. Kurt Browning, good afternoon, thanks for joining
us here at the Watercooler.
KB: That's great, nice to be here.
RC: Um, now are you about to go on the ice practice or just
getting off the ice now?
KB: (laughs) I'm out in the- I'm out in BC at the moment, so
we're just preparing for a Christmas show that we'll be filming
RC: OK so that's well choreographed..um. Is there a lot of
practice that you still have to do on a daily basis?
KB: Um, well this is my full time job. And um, just like
those athletes that you see getting ready for the Olympics, um, you
know I have to prepare and train and do all those things too. It's
certainly a different kind of schedule, it's a different kind of job,
but um, it involves a lot of traveling, it involves being able to stay
in shape and be able to perform in different time zones. And
certainly, you know we're not peaking for one event, we're trying to
peak each week for something new.
RC: And as far as that is concerned..like, give..take us
through a day, like a typical day now in your life. And how does that
compare when you were competing at the amateur level?
KB: Oh, well. I know that um..like you know, Jamie and David
are only a couple years into their professional career and I think
that they...um, it sometimes takes a couple years for skaters to sort
of break the tether, shall we say, from the coach, and the regular
routine of going into the rink as an amateur, and, you know, really
training for that one big event, that World Championship or that
Olympic Gold Medal that you're searching for. As a professional, I'm
training for probably 4 or 5 events at one time, which might mean I
have an outfit for a Christmas show or I need to do another number for
a country show, um, I have to get ready for this competition that
we'll be having in Winnipeg which involves rules and judging, which is
a totally different animal. And um, as a professional, that's really
the name of the game, is being able to prepare for multiple events at
RC: Talk about the Winnipeg event, and it's a different
animal and considering what skating has been through the last couple
of years, um..how does this differ then from what you folks do and
tell us about the judging aspect of that because that's a throwback to
earlier in your career.
KB: Well it's kind of a chance for us to um, you know, as
professionals, to, you know, kind of get back in the ring a little
bit, um, strut your stuff. If, um..if I'm in a Christmas show tonight
and um..you know my goal is to obviously provide entertainment, um, to
provide athleticism and fun and musicality and all those great things
that go with being..you know, one of the, hopefully one of the best
skaters out there. But when it's time for competition, it's my chance
to push my own limits a little bit, to be rewarded for risk. Um, you
know the risk that I take in a show isn't necessarily rewarded, but in
a competition it will be. So you know what? It's just a chance to flex
that competitive muscle that, um, that we used to..you know, that I
used to do all the time and be compared against my peers, which is
also daunting, and kind of scary, but fun at the same time.
RC: And it puts you, like you said, on a certain edge. But
when we talk about judging, we know about the Olympics and the fallout
of that. Are you confident that this restructuring that we've seen in
figure skating is going to work?
KB: Sorry I couldn't hear that last question?
RC: Well, with the Olympic fallout..
KB: Oh the new system?
RC: And the new system that's in place, are you confident
that this is all going to work out now?
KB: I'm more confident this year than I was last year. The
more I hear about it, the more I'm starting to, you know, to think
that it's definitely a step in the right direction. Like, any step
(laughs) is a positive one, and the system that we used to have was
fine. There was nothing wrong with the system. It was just, you know,
the people. So, um, I compare it to a red, yellow, and green light,
and if nobody stops at the red light and goes at the green light, then
that situation is useless, but if everyone follows the rules, then it
works fine. And um, what we're trying to do is just, you know, make
sure that the rules are harder to manipulate. And actually, this new
system is rewarding the all-around skater, and the more the skater's
learning about it, the more I think that the skaters themselves are
liking it. I have a few reservations, but not too many.
RC: How does this new system then differ from the old
system? For those people that don't always follow figure skating, and
I don't know why they don't (Kurt laughs), but uh..for those people
who don't, what is significantly changed in figure skating as far as
this whole judging scandal is concerned, and the aftermath. What
changes have been made?
KB: Well there's more judges, and the judge isn't
necessarily certain that their mark is being counted at the moment, so
basically what it does is that it guarantees that one judge can not
manipulate the outcome. And the big..the big..how can I describe this?
In diving, when you watch competitive diving, you know exactly what
that diver is trying to do before they jump off the board. This is a
3.8 level dive, and if they hit it, they'll get this much points,
right? And that's sort of where figure skating has gone. And the 3.5
minute or the 4 minute program has already been assessed. Um, the
judges know what the skater is going to attempt. There's more
restrictions on mistakes. Uh..it's a lot harder for the favorite
going in to make a couple mistakes and still win. So, it's more
scientific, I guess.
RC: The impression I got throughout that, and I want to move
on and talk about this MTS event, but the impression I got, it was
still this, you know, country club, old boys, old girls type of
network here. Has that at all been penetrated? Has that been..you
know, has the stick of dynamite gone in there and blown that whole
aspect of it up?
KB: Um, we had a pellet gun and we shot at them a little bit
but (laughs) that's about it. Um..it is. Um, you know, it's a system
that's been around, it's been the same names for a long time, and um,
those sort of things? You know, the boys' club like you describe it?
That's a hard thing to change. Um, but yeah, time and necessity will
provide us with a better system in the future. And skating is a great
sport! It offers so many things, to not only, you know, the people
watching, but to young kids. And I think that we're so fixated right
now on what's happening on TV at the Olympics with the judges that we
sometimes forget that we're..we need to provide a system that parents
are going to want to put their kids into. I wouldn't...you know, I'm
a new father, I wouldn't want to put my kid into something that I
don't think he has a chance of controlling his own destiny in. And
uh, I think that's what we have to do in skating is to make it
accountable for itself.
RC: You married a ballerina, right?
KB: I did. That was a good day!
RC: So,um.. yeah I bet! And now the little one..you know,
ballerina, figure skating..there's huge potential here, isn't there?
KB: Yeah, I think he'll be a linebacker for sure.
KB: Yup, a real small one.
RC: Kurt Browning is with us on CJOB-68, and I'm looking at
some of the names here. Team USA, Team Russia, Team Europe..uh, this
is the World elite!
KB: It's um...what you're looking at is a group of skaters
that are the..you know, really the top athletes at the professional
world right now. Um, from Europe is being represented by Josef
Sabovcik. He's um..geez, he's probably about, what's Josef? 42, 43
years old? And he is still, still one of the best jumpers on the
planet, and um..very very exciting. Alexei Yagudin, of course, who
just won the Olympics in 2002. Um, Todd Eldredge who is...who's
doing..when I do shows with him he does 2 triple Axels in every show!
So technically, I'm up against some, you know, some real good guys!
RC: Yeah, and I'm looking at the women here too. Not bad too!
KB: We um..you know, if you come to the event you're going
to see, like, really great skating, but you're also going to get that
edge of competiveness that puts you on your seat and..um, you know...a
show is very exciting, um... we put in, like for example, I'm doing a
Christmas show tonight and we've worked really hard on it, and we want
to make moments that make you go awww, and you know, we have little
kids in it and everything, and we're really hoping to entertain and
show skating at its best. But you know, let's be honest, when you're
competing, it's just different. You know? When you're watching an
exhibition hockey game or the Stanley Cup playoffs, that's just
different. It's a different - like we were saying early - it's a
RC: Well, and it's all about pride, and it's all
about..yeah, winning. You're a very tight-knit circle but very, very
competitive! I know I'm that way in this business, I know many people
in the business but there's nothing like breaking a news story and for
you guys it's winning a competition. It's...you still have that in
you. And I guess the day that that leaves you will be the day that you
hang them up.
KB: Well, right...to be honest right now, I'm skating great,
what I can't decide is exactly what elements..not elements, but what
programs I should use. Um...I competed earlier in an event called Ice
Wars, and I had a new program that was um..you know, sort of a funny
program where I..to make a long story short, I actually have a box
full of toys and I'm pretending to, you know, sort of like use my
kid's toys to play with. And I think maybe it's a good exhibition
number, I'm not sure if it's a competitive number, and I'm going back
and forth, I can't make a decision. I know that Jamie and David..my
teammates...are going to skate great, Jennifer Robinson is going to
skate great, and I want to make sure that I hold up my end of the
RC: How close of a circuit is this? Because I was talking to
a colleague of mine who's very plugged into the figure skating circle
and he said "Richard"..this is CJOB's Lorne Edwards...he said
"Richard, ask Kurt about Scott Hamilton" because he was diagnosed with
cancer, recovered, and I gather recently diagnosed with a brain
tumor. How is he doing and how close of a circuit is this?
KB: Well, Scott is sort of..you know, at least for my
generation, he's one of those few individuals that you can actually
point a finger at and say that he's changed the sport, that he's made
a difference in my life. And um..you know I've had a history with
Stars on Ice that goes back almost 15 years, and, I was there the day
that he found out that he had cancer the first time and you know, just
to..we've just been through so much together. Um..I know that some
people say that when they go to college that's a really tough time,
and that they never forget those people that they went to college
with, and I think that the people that I turned professional with and
travelled with are like that. So Scott's um..and again, I was there
with him the day that he found out about the second tumor. It was
between his eyes, and it was a mass, and I have not spoken to him
personally since, but I guess it is benign, and it is something that I
think the doctors are very positive about, and he is at home resting,
and um...Again, he's just one of the toughest little men you'll ever
meet. And uh, he thinks that his goal in life now is to use his
um..his fame that skating has brought him to fight cancer. And
that..he actually said, he goes "I know now why I became this great
skater, it's because I really actually need to do *this*" and that's
the kind of guy he is.
RC: Who is your toughest competitor? When you look back at
your career? The toughest competitor.
KB: Oh..(thinks) Uh, I was almost going to say Victor
Petrenko but uh... if you say toughest, it has to be Elvis! Elvis
Stojko was one of the toughest guys I ever had to compete against,
because um..there wasn't anything about him that made you dislike the
fellow, it was just the intimidation factor, the fact that you knew
that he wasn't going to mentally mess up. And what you saw in
practice is what you were going to have to compete against, and what
you saw in practice was intimidating, and consistent. And he was a
really tough guy to compete against.
RC: And is that why you like the idea of this judged event,
in the sense that it makes you mentally sharp? And I wonder if that's
what you miss the most, is that, is that mental..you know, it's
entertainment, it's about the show, it's about performing, it always
has been, always will be, but there's nothing like being able to psych
somebody out (Kurt laughs) because the drama, the drama over the years
has just been incredible!
KB: Well yeah, I'll be honest, it feels pretty good to test
yourself, and say, you know, I want to skate down the ice with the
white light on, and you know, someone's going to put up a mark and
tell me what they thought about it, and to do a triple-triple like I
used to... And you know, I may not win, but you know, just to be able
to take my skates off after and just breathe out and go "ah, I feel
good about myself right now" because, the trouble is is that the good
feeling I get from skating great or from meeting that challenge, it
lasts so fleeting, but if I screw up, I'm going to be mad at myself
for weeks (laughs), so, I'm almost...
RC: Do you still put that much pressure on yourself?
KB: Oh sure. And it can happen on the 42nd show of a 60
city tour, too. We are very temperamental creatures, we...um, what'd
you call us before you interviewed..you know, you said...
RC: Well, you know, off-air I was saying to my producer Joel
whether or not, you know, he's a flaky entertainer..
KB: Flaky entertainer, that's right, and we, we are very..we
wear our hearts on our sleeves (under Richard)
RC: And whether he'll show up on time, and you actually
KB: (laughs) I had help. But um, we do, we wear our hearts
on our sleeves, we're performers, and um, every time that we get on
the ice and make a few mistakes, we don't get those back, and maybe we
get to skate, you know, the next city. We get to do the same show
again, but we'll never get that audience back and we take it pretty
RC: Who do you like at the amateur level in Canada right
now? Sandhu is, in many ways, like you. And I hate..well, I'll say it,
hot or cold!
KB: Hot or..well, actually as an amateur, I was... you know,
I had bad luck at one Olympics where I was healthy and ready to
compete but um, I don't know, I'll argue with you on that, I think
that four world titles is a pretty good, is a pretty good thing to go
RC: (over Kurt) You were more hot, you were more hot than
you were cold!
KB: But Sandhu is probably one of the most successful
athletes, and you're right, one of the most, um, unrewarding athletes
at the very very same time, and I think that it's something that is
hopefully not crawling into his head, because he is ridiculously
talented. He's working really really hard, probably harder than I've
ever seen him work, and um, has the potential to be that guy that
sneaks into the Olympics and becomes the unsung hero!
RC: We will look forward to seeing you, uh, next Friday
night at the MTS Center. The tickets are available at Ticketmaster,
and for the first..actually, the third caller at 780-CJOB, you will
win a pair of tickets to this. The third caller at 780-CJOB. Kurt
Browning, an absolute pleasure to talk to you this afternoon, and
you've got to hit the ice, you've got to go out and practice right
away, and we thank you, and best of luck, not only Friday night, but
with all those television specials that we're going to see you in in
the weeks and months ahead.
KB: Right on. We appreciate it, and hopefully we'll have a
good competition for everybody, and hopefully everyone will enjoy it.
RC: Kurt Browning, joining us live on CJOB-68. Thanks
again. And it's Stars on Ice, four time world champion, four time
Canadian champion Kurt Browning joining us here on the
Superstation. The world's top skaters from Canada, Russia, United
States, and Europe will compete head to head in a judged figure
skating competition one week from today, Friday Dec. 10 at the MTS
Center. Tickets are available right now, and again, caller number
three, at 780-CJOB.