March 22, 2008

Positivity: Skating’s Twist of Fate

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:32 am

Revisiting a groundbreaking sports achievement 20 years ago — and the one who achieved it:

When Kurt Browning first landed the Quad 20 years ago, it changed the sport forever

You owe it to yourself to have a look. Go online, call up Google, punch in “Kurt Browning first quad” and you’ll come upon a YouTube video of a young, fully coiffed Browning opening his long program with the jump that started a revolution. Or rather, four of them.

Hard to believe, as you watch the grainy footage, that this week’s world figure-skating championships – Sweden’s first in 32 years – will mark the 20th anniversary of that landmark leap, which hardly anyone in the Budapest Sports Hall on March 25, 1988, even realized he had landed.

But he knew. And Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic and four-time world champion who was doing colour on the telecast, knew. And the judges knew.

As Browning came down on his right skate blade, 29 seconds into his program, the sheer torque of the quadruple toe loop forced an extra turn and a half on the ice as he fought – stylishly, mind you, with an “I meant to do that” flair – to stay upright.

But the jump was good, and history was made. And a career was kick-started, one that is still ticking along, in remarkably fine fettle, though its owner is now a 41-year-old, part-time Mr. Mom with two little boys and a head as bereft of hair as that of his friend and mentor, Hamilton.

“Ten (years) didn’t seem like 10,” Browning said the other day, calling from the train en route to Kingston, Ont., to promote an April 20 stop on this year’s Stars On Ice tour.

“But 20 feels like 20. Whether it’s your perspective of sports, or of yourself, or parenting … a lot has happened since then.”

Not all of it has been happy. His mother, Neva, died in 2000. His father, Dewey, who spent his life as an outfitter and trail guide in the shadow of the Rockies in Caroline, Alta., has struggled with health problems and is living in Florida.

There were the two Olympics, Albertville and Lillehammer, where Browning went in with a real chance at gold – he was too young in Calgary, a month before he landed the Quad – but came home without a medal.
But the good parts have been very good, indeed.

Like the four world titles in a five-year span – Paris, Halifax, Munich, Prague – starting the year after he opened all those eyes in Budapest. And the explosion of the sport in Canada that coincided with his rivalry with Elvis Stojko. And the body of work that includes some of the most memorable skating performances ever, like his Casablanca long program in 1993-94, and his Singin’ In the Rain TV special, and dozens of show-skates that were dazzling in their versatility.

And his marriage to Sonia. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

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