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Kurt Browning: Sorry, Canada

The Story


One month ago, world figure skating champion Kurt Browning fell apart at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, placing fifth. Still, he's a national hero for keeping his chin up and saying "sorry" to Canada for his disappointing performance. In this CBC Radio interview with Browning, host Peter Gzowski muses: "I wonder how Elvis Stojko feels. He won the (silver) medal and you're the toast of the country." Browning has just announced he's turning professional. He has been showered with every amateur laurel possible - except an Olympic medal. Professing no regrets, he does, however, recall how excited he was many years before to meet Olympic speed skating champion Gaetan Boucher. "I thought about it for weeks," Browning recalls. "I shook hands with an Olympian." 

Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: March 14, 1994
Guest(s): Kurt Browning
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 6:01

Did You know?


• Kurt Browning went into the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics favoured to win gold because he dominated the sport with four World Championships under his belt. He had considered turning pro two years earlier, after a back injury relegated him to sixth place at the 1992 Albertville Games. Browning decided to stay amateur and take one more stab at an Olympic medal.

• During the technical program in Lillehammer, Browning had one of the worst skates of his international career. He fell on a triple Lutz and turned a double Axel into a single. "It's over," he told an interviewer moments later. "My Olympic hopes are gone. A lot of people in Canada are sad. Sorry."

• Browning's words resonated with Canadians. An Edmonton Journal editorial stated: "Apologies? Keep them. Everybody knows that Kurt Browning redefined figure skating in this country and the world." John Savage, the Nova Scotia premier, sent a telegram to Norway stating: "On behalf of Nova Scotia, let me say this: Don't apologize to Canada! You are a great world champion.."

• Touched fans issued a public call for gold to make Browning the medal he didn't win in Lillehammer. Donations included false teeth and Browning's mother's wedding ring. More than four kilograms of metal were collected. After it was melted down, with impurities removed, the medal still weighed in at a neck-straining 1.35 kilograms.

• After Lillehammer Browning told the National Post: "I would have loved to have been one of the ones who had come home with something around his neck - something with the (Olympic) rings on it. It was a strange emotion knowing that (an Olympic medal) might never happen to me." Asked in 2003 if he would trade his World Championships for Olympic gold, Browning replied: "No way. I am kind of used to my four little world title things."

• Kurt Browning was born in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., on June 18, 1966. He grew up in Caroline, Alta., a ranching community founded by his grandfather Jasper Browning. Kurt's father, Dewey, a guide and outfitter, cleared snow in the backyard to build a rink so that his son, the youngest of three children, could play hockey. As his figure skating career developed, Browning moved to Edmonton.

• By 1985, Browning was the top Canadian junior. At the 1988 winter Olympics in Calgary, he finished eighth and was noticed for his jumping ability and overall athleticism. Three weeks later, Browning staked his place in figure skating history - and a listing in the Guinness Book of Records - by landing the first quadruple toe loop jump in competition history. He achieved the feat at the World Championships in Budapest but only placed sixth.

• In a quadruple toe loop jump, a skater stabs the toe of one skate into the ice, vaults into the air and spins four complete rotations before landing less than a second later. It would be 10 years after Browning's 1988 marvel that an American skater, Timothy Goebel, would successfully land the jump in competition. In 2003, USA Today placed the jump sixth on its list of "10 hardest things to do in sports".

• Browning has enjoyed a long and successful professional career, winning world pro titles and touring with sold-out ice shows. In 1996, he married National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Sonia Rodriguez.


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