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Medal money and "Peter Pan"

What's happening in Canadian skating this week

Kurt Browning is married to one of the principal dancers of the National Ballet of Canada, Sonia Rodriguez. They were married in 1996, and have two children.
Kurt Browning is married to one of the principal dancers of the National Ballet of Canada, Sonia Rodriguez. They were married in 1996, and have two children. (Tina Tyan)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(11/22/2007) - Money for Medals

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced this week that, for the first time, Canadian athletes who win medals at the 2008 Summer and 2010 Winter Olympic Games will also win cash -- $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.

In just the last few years, the COC has changed its philosophy from one of celebrating the efforts of its athletes, successful or otherwise, to one of celebrating excellence and podium finishes. The strategy is supposed to result in Canada winning more medals than any other country at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, with figure skaters expected to do their part in that effort.

For some athletes whose sports include multiple events, such as speed skating, the new Athlete Excellence fund has potential for a substantial payout. For medal-winning figure skaters, however, their one medal will be worth only slightly more than what the ISU offers in prize money for Grand Prix events, and substantially less than what medalists earn at the World Championships.

In team sports, every player will receive the prize payout making those wins the most costly and perhaps most controversial for the COC, given that the traditionally medal-winning men's ice hockey team is comprised of professionals who earn seven-figure salaries playing in the National Hockey League.

The idea of money for Olympic medals is not new. The rewards have been in place for various lengths of time in several countries. For example, the U.S. offers its medalists the same dollar rewards as Canada will now pay its athletes. Kazakhstan is the most generous, paying a whopping $100,000 for gold, $50K for silver and $30K for bronze.

The Wirtz's Re-Launch in Waterloo

Long recognized as a training ground for Canada's new generation of medal-winning ice-dancers, the Kitchener-Waterloo skating program is now building pairs skating talent.

Veteran competitors Kristy and Kris Wirtz, the married twosome who won the 1998 and 1999 Canadian titles, relocated to Waterloo's RIM Park from Toronto this summer, and brought promising senior-level pairs with them. Now sharing some practice sessions with ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are Kyra and Dylan Moskovitch. They are a brother and sister duo who won the Canadian novice, and then junior pairs titles before finishing seventh nationally last season.

The Moskovitch's -- she's about to turn 14 and he's 23 -- have never been able to compete in ISU events because the huge difference in their ages clashed with ISU age eligibility rules. She had been too young even for junior events, and is still too young for senior; but he is too old for the juniors. Kris Wirtz confirmed that they will finally be able to compete in senior internationals next fall, but she will still be too young to meet the age 15 requirement for senior Grand Prix and ISU Championship events. Come the 2009-10 season, the Moskovitches finally will be eligible for all competitions including the Olympic Games and that, says Wirtz, is what they have set their sights on.

Speaking of the Wirtz Family

Kris Wirtz's nephew Sean, was visiting his uncle and aunt in Waterloo in November before heading off to sea. Wirtz, who retired from competition this summer with two national pairs bronze medals (2003 & 2004) to his credit , has taken a job performing in the ice shows presented on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Sea's cruise ship.

His former partner Elizabeth Putnam, meanwhile, finished third (99.01 points) in the British Columbia sectional competition earlier this month as a senior women's competitor. Putnam now advances to the final national championships qualifier in Mississauga, Ontario, the first weekend in December.

Kurt Browning Turns Green

Thursday, four-time world champion Kurt Browning will make his musical-theater debut as the title character in Peter Pan - The Family Musical That's Silly, Very Silly!

"It's Peter Pan with a lot of humor directed right at the kids and other humor that's directed over the kids heads at mom and dad," Browning explained. "You can do improv a little bit if you want. Captain Hook can come out in the audience and the kids will go, 'boooo, booo, boooo.' He'll say, 'What do you know? I got in here for free.'

"You can have fun with it like that," Browning said of the modern adaptation of the iconic play being staged at Toronto's historic Elgin Theatre through Jan. 6.

Asked how he ended up in the title role, Browning explained that he and his wife, Sonia Rodriguez, are friends with the play's producer Ross Petty and his wife Karen Kain. Petty plays Captain Hook.

For some time, Petty had been asking Browning to be a part of his fractured fairy tales which he has produced for 12 years. Browning, ever the busy professional skater, never had the time.

"I did it as an adventure. I have to sing a little, tiny bit. A new adventure, that's what it is," said Browning, now father to two boys.

BMO Financial Group, the title sponsor of the Canadian figure skating championships, is the presenting sponsor of the play which has become an annual, holiday tradition.

"BMO is thrilled to help bring Kurt's charm and charisma from the ice to the stage," said Susan Payne, BMO's senior vice-president of Corporate Marketing.