- Figure Skating
Jason Brown's bumpy road to Olympic qualification at the U.S. Championships
A week before he became a national superstar and Olympian, Jason Brown stood on the side of Interstate 25 on a cold Colorado night on the phone with his dad.
“Dad,” he said. “It’s the car.”
Days before the 19-year-old Brown, who’s rocketed up the figure skating ranks this past season in the U.S., was set to leave for Boston and attempt to qualify for the Olympics at the U.S. Championships, he hit a patch of ice after leaving practice and smashed into a median, totalling the car he was driving and having a rough start to a week that he wanted to go very smoothly.
But before things got better for Brown, they got worse. Meant to fly from Denver to Boston, Brown had a cancelled flight and then a missed connection that had him scrambling in Dallas to try and get home to his parents’ house in Chicago Tuesday night.
Wednesday – after another last-minute cancellation and subsequent re-booking – Brown arrived at TD Garden in Boston sans his luggage (he had grabbed his skates just in case) just hours before his official practice was set to get underway.
“It was crazy,” Brown told NBCOlympics.com. “My mom got here before me.”
Embedded video_content_type: Figure skater Jason Brown explains emotions after being named to U.S. Olympic team
Yet five days later Brown stood on the medal podium at the U.S. Championships having earned a silver medal, and more importantly a trip to the Sochi Olympics. Along the way, the charismatic youngster had won over the Boston crowd and within days would become a national hit, his “Riverdance” free skate going viral on the web and garnering over one million views.
Viewed himself as an outsider leading into the Olympic season, Brown has danced and skated his way into the international conversation, building a strong season ahead of the National Championships in Boston where he was still seen as an outsider.
That all changed during his seven minutes on competitive ice. First, Brown was clean in his Prince short program, the Boston crowd attracted to his energy and poise. It was in the free skate that the teenager, who doesn't have the all-powerful quadruple jump, really won them over, however, earning a standing ovation before his program – complete with eight triple jumps (all of them landed, if not cleanly) - was over.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Team USA figure skaters named for Sochi Olympics
With his performance, Brown earned a silver medal behind veteran Jeremy Abbott and became the first American man to qualify for the Olympics as a teenager since 1976, when David Santee did so at age 18.
“I’m shaking,” an obviously-excited Brown said after being named to the two-man Olympic team for the U.S.
Shaking in a much different than he had been a week before, when Brown made that call to his parents on the side of the highway.
“We’re lucky in a way because the airbags didn’t deploy,” Marla Brown told NBCOlympics.com.
Had the airbags activated, Jason could have ended up with bruises or soreness that perhaps would have impacted his skating.
And walking away unscathed, Brown – sans a car – has his first-ever national medal and a trip to the Olympics to make up for it.
“The car didn’t matter,” Brown’s mom said. “He was OK.”
And he's also a star. An attraction that his coach, Kori Ade, says is because of the skater’s genuine personality.
“He’s just the nicest kid,” Ade said. “I see that. People see that. And that’s why they’re drawn in.”
Embedded video_content_type: Meet the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Olympic Team