Jason Brown

‘Starstruck’ Jason Brown relishes fame

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Does Jason Brown know how popular he’s become? Yes, he’s checked YouTube.

Brown, 19, took second at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships two weeks ago and is the youngest U.S. men’s Olympic singles skater since 1976.

He rocketed to fan favorite status with his Riverdance style free skate Jan. 12, which has more than 2.7 million views on YouTube.

“The most hits that I’ve ever gotten before this was 8,000,” he said in a media teleconference Wednesday. “I would freak out if there was more than 100 people.”

The reception of the sudden and well-earned attention drips off his gushy, bubbly personality.

“It is so beyond everything I ever imagined,” Brown said. “I can’t even put to words how blown away, I don’t even know what to say. It’s so shocking. I don’t even know where to start.”

Brown said he returned to his Colorado training center the day after the U.S. Championships. You might not believe the scene.

“Half the lights are off,” Brown said. “I was the only one at the rink.”

On the ice, nothing has changed for Brown. He’s preparing for the first of what he hopes is three Olympics in Sochi and hoping to improve on his performance at the U.S. Championships.

“I am still the same person before I left for nationals,” he said. “I’m that crazy guy with long hair who loves to skate and loves to perform.”

He’s taken the motto, “Reschedule. Don’t delete,” in adjusting to increased requests for his time and camera crews at his rink.

“I’m not used to the spotlight,” said Brown, whose ponytail has a Twitter account with a few hundred followers. “But I’m really enjoying it.”

He’s asked advice of Olympic coaches and skaters, including Emily and Sarah Hughes, of how to deal with his first major senior international competition in Sochi.

He said he’d relish the chance to pick 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton‘s brain and was told 1948 and 1952 Olympic champion Dick Button was one of the 2.7 million viewers of his YouTube skate.

“That is like oh my gosh,” Brown said. “I don’t even know how to express how crazy cool that is.”

He regrets passing up the chance to meet two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan last year.

“I get really, really starstruck around people,” he said, mentioning his mom urged him to approach Kwan. “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. [Kwan] left without me even asking for a picture. I was so scared.”

He’s even in awe of his peers. He called a November experience in Paris sharing warm-up ice and a podium with gold-medal favorites Patrick Chan of Canada and Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan surreal.

It came one month after Brown, the reigning world junior silver medalist, was second after the short program in his senior Grand Prix series debut at Skate America. Brown tumbled to fifth after being a little too excited in his free skate then.

It meant the world to rebound in Paris and beat everyone except Chan and Hanyu.

“To be in the press conference after that with those two guys, it really proved that [Skate America] wasn’t a fluke,” Brown said. “It made me believe that anything is possible.”

Brown is unfettered by Sochi security issues, stating matter-of-factly that 16 family members are traveling to watch him.

“I’m going to be bouncing off the walls excited,” Brown said. “At the same time it is a competition, so I will get that focus, after the Opening Ceremony.”

So, does anything rattle Brown? He’s grown from throwing temper tantrums on the ice at 7 or 8 to turning to a psychologist in the rare times he’s upset now — as little as as once a month.

He’s trying to stay grounded and believes he can win a medal in Sochi. It’s not out of the question given the shaky depth of the men’s field.

His motivation? His coach’s first words to him after his dazzling free skate at the U.S. Championships.

“This was a little slow, that could have been better, that was two-footed,” Brown said. “For not even one second did I think that that was the best performance I’ve ever done.”

Russia taps Plushenko for Olympic record attempt

Simone Biles says Larry Nassar sexually abused her

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Simone Biles watched as friends and Olympic teammates came forward to detail abuse at the hands of a now-imprisoned former USA Gymnastics team doctor.

Drawing in part from their strength, the four-time gold medalist acknowledged Monday she is among the athletes who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar.

Biles, who won five medals overall at the Rio Olympics, released a statement via social media outlining that abuse.

Nassar, who spent more than two decades as a physician at USA Gymnastics while also working at Michigan State University, has admitted sexually assaulting gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought medical treatment.

He was sentenced in December to 60 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography and is facing another 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting seven girls.

Biles, now 20, called Nassar’s behavior “completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially from someone whom I was told to trust.”

She joined a list of high-profile gymnasts who came out against Nassar, including six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, 2012 all-around champion Gabby Douglas and two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney.

Like her Olympic teammates, Biles detailed abuse by Nassar that he disguised as treatment.

“It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the ‘special’ treatment,” Biles wrote.

Biles is in the beginning stages of a return to competition, a journey that includes visits to the national team’s training center at the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston, where she said the abuse occurred.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” Biles wrote.

USA Gymnastics initially agreed to buy the Karolyi Ranch in the summer of August 2016, following the retirement of longtime national team coordinator Martha Karolyi but then backed out of the deal, though the national team continues to use the facility while options for a replacement are explored.

Biles says she initially wondered if she was to blame.

“For too long I’ve asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it may fault?’” Biles wrote. “I now know the answer to those questions. No. No. It was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”

USA Gymnastics did not initially respond to a request for comment.

The organization has taken several steps in recent months. President and CEO Steve Penny resigned under pressure last March and was replaced by Kerry Perry, who took over on Dec. 1.

The organization hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport last summer.

Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs and reporting.

The federation also adopted over 70 recommendations by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw an extensive independent review.

That’s not far enough for some.

Raisman has urged the organization to remove chairman of the board Paul Parilla among others. Biles, like Raisman, wants USA Gymnastics to take a deeper look at the conditions that allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked for so long.

“We need to know why this was able to take place for so long and to so many of us,” Biles said. “We need to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Jamaica qualifies first Olympic women’s bobsled team

Jamaica Bobsled Jazmine Fenlator
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Jamaica, we have a women’s Olympic bobsled team.

Jamaica qualified an Olympic women’s bobsled team for the first time, earning the last quota spot in the PyeongChang field by a slim margin over Romania.

This season, Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian (a 2014 U.S. Olympian) drove the first Jamaican women’s sled in World Cup competition since 2001.

She and brakewoman Carrie Russell debuted in seventh place in December, which put them into Olympic qualifying position. Russell won a 2013 World title in track and field as part of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay.

Fenlator-Victorian and Russell competed in a sled named “Mr. Cool Bolt” after “Cool Runnings” and Usain Bolt, according to International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announcers.

Eleven Jamaicans have competed at the Winter Olympics — all men. All bobsledders, too, save ski cross racer Errol Kerr in 2010, according to Olympic historians.

Fenlator-Victorian, 32, announced her plan to switch representation to Jamaica (where her father is from) in 2015.

The year before, she finished 11th in her Olympic debut in Sochi with two-time Olympic track and field athlete Lolo Jones.

Jamaica just missed qualifying a two-man bobsled outright for PyeongChang. It is the first alternate if one of the qualified nations returns a quota spot.

The Olympic women’s bobsled medal contenders are American, Canadian and German sleds.

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MORE: Would Usain Bolt make a good bobsledder?

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