World Champion Kurt Browning talks skating, being a dad

Kurt Browning is perhaps best-known as the four-time World Champion in men’s figure skating – or maybe as the first persona to land a quadruple jump in competition. But the Canadian is also married to Sonia Rodriguez, a member of the National Ballet of Canada, and dad to Gabriel, 8, and Dillon, 4. And this year, he’s bringing his creative style to Stars on Ice as co-director and choreographer (the show hits the Allstate Arena on March 11). Kurt spoke to Chicago Parent about being on the road, parenting, and what to expect with this year’s show.

What’s it like being a dad on the road?

It sucks, absolutely. It’s not an easy way to parent. It’s hard on your emotions. When the kids get old enough to realize you’re not around, it’s hard on them, too. Being able to see each other on the computer really helps. It’s nice, but there’s no way you can sort of replicate being there.

How has being a parent affected the way you skate?

The one thing I can say that I have noticed is that you don’t take for granted the time away from the house. I don’t spend as much time training as I used to, because I can find an excuse to be back home. … But at the same time, I think I’m a little more focused than I used to be. If I’m going to be away from them, I really want the skating to count for something. I’m trying to do my job as good as I can. … I owe to it my kids to do a good job.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a dad?

The overall responsibility of [parenting], at times it’s overwhelming. It’s constant, 24/7, and it doesn’t go away. When they’re 50 and you’re 75, you’re still their parent.

Stars on Ice comes to Chicago March 11, and you’ve been a big part of this year’s program. What can we expect?

I wanted the audience to hear our voices and connect. We’re not just skaters, we’re people…. I chose the music I wanted to use because I thought it made the women in the cast very strong. I wanted to give them a platform to stand on and show their strength. … We skate to Rolling in the Deep by Adele. The music is beautiful and we actually start with microphones on our feet, so you can hear the sound of skating. I’m very proud of that one.

What’s the atmosphere like on the tour?

I have a great group of skaters. … Everyone has their own skating style. I have to combine those styles to make us look like a unit. The times when I want the cast to work together and move together, that’s tricky. It’s like herding cats. It’s also in ensemble stuff that our personalities really come through.

Why would you tell families that they should come to Stars on Ice?

I don’t think too many people come to Stars on Ice and expect the Smurfs. It’s about music and skating and what skating can offer you as entertainment. … It’s the place where the best skaters in the world actually get better.

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