Jason Brown loves to perform, and it shows.
In the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend at TD Garden in Boston, Brown surprised everyone by scoring 182.61 points to win the free skate and 270.08 points overall to take home the silver medal.
Brown stayed in his element. He didn't try a quad in either his short or long program, but got the crowd behind him with his infectious dance style and won over the judges with pristine choreography and transitions.
The kid’s a showman.
Just 19 years old, Brown looks every bit his age. He has long, brown hair that he pulls back into a ponytail when he skates, and he seems to bubble over with excitement as he speaks, a hallmark of youthful enthusiasm.
Brown is only one year removed from the figure skating junior ranks. While many expected him to charm the audience with his rhythmic dance moves and grandiose style, no one expected him to separate himself from the field enough to garner one of only two U.S. men’s spots for the Sochi Olympics.
But Brown, an excellent student, accomplished pianist and dance enthusiast, shocked the world. He will now travel to Sochi alongside veteran skater Jeremy Abbott, and he could not be happier about it.
Where Abbott, 28, appeared stoic and calm in the press conference welcoming him to the 2014 team, Brown was exactly the opposite.
“I’m not as calm as Jeremy,” Brown told the media with a laugh (via Ice Network). “This is incredible and such an honor. I’m so excited to go and represent my country in Russia.”
He didn’t try to overthink things. Sure, he wanted to skate his very best and realize his Olympic dream, but Brown knew he’d have to do it on his terms. He knew he’d have to be himself.
“My goal this week was just to go out there…to stay calm and stay grounded and enjoy every moment…and just go out there and skate the way I’ve been training," said Brown. "I couldn’t be more excited and pleased to be sitting up with Jeremy and be part of this team.”
Brown began skating as a tyke (age 3) after his parents signed him and older sister Jordan up for skate classes. Inspired by his sister’s immediate love for the sport, Brown never looked back.
He credits the support of his family for much of his success. Brown’s mother, Marla, was a television producer for The Arsenio Hall Show. His father, Steve, worked for a lighting company. Neither, Brown says, knew very much about ice skating.
But they did all the things parents are supposed to do. They drove him back and forth for lessons, bought him skates every time his feet grew and attended his skating events with a smile.
“My parents are so not in the skating world,” Brown said in an interview with The Skating Lesson on YouTube. "They don’t know a flip from a lutz.”
Growing up in Highland Park, Ill., Brown began training with his coach, Kori Ade, when he was only five years old. He skated up, down and all around the Chicago area until May 2013. After graduating a semester early from Highland Park High School, Brown and Ade moved to Monument, Colo., so he could train at the Colorado Sports Center.
Ade said she knew he was an underdog, but credits Brown’s enthusiasm for his success.
"He was not thought of initially for Sochi for two reasons,” Ade told Ice Network's Lynn Rutherford and Amy Rosewater. “One was the quad and the other just that he was a first-year senior."
Brown didn’t let his lack of a quad keep him from giving his best effort.
"With Jason, the glass is always full," she said. "I think that's why we're a good team, because I'm a lot that way. We're resourceful and make the best of it and try to find a silver lining."
The two, along with choreographer Rohene Ward, certainly found a silver lining in Boston. The medal there gives Brown the opportunity to earn one on an even grander stage in Sochi.
And while neither American headed to the Olympics is expected to medal against the likes of Canada’s Patrick Chan and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Daisuke Takahashi, don’t be surprised if Brown performs better than expected there, too.
It’s what he does best.
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