Jason Brown’s family nervous for free skate, but know ‘he’s won already’

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SOCHI, Russia – Jason Brown’s family is careful not to get in anyone’s way when they come to watch him skate. In order to do so, they sit in the last row of the arena. As in the last, last row.

“I had to pull out binoculars last night,” 15-year-old Dylan told NBCOlympics.com Friday, laughing.

But the family is there for each and every skate of Jason’s, the viral sensation who has already helped win a bronze for the U.S. in the team event and Friday night will go for another medal after finishing sixth in the short program, less than a point out from third place.

They’re a bundle of nerves and excitement and they watch every moment of Jason’s skates – even when they’re tempted to look away.

“We might be watching through our fingers,” said Jason’s older sister, Jordan, 20.

VIDEO: Brown discusses his amazing journey

Nerves for parents and family members can oftentimes be more debilitating than for the athletes themselves at the Olympics. Evan Lysacek’s mom couldn’t bear to watch him skate because it made her so nervous. Aly Raisman’s parents swayed and white-knuckled in their seats during the London Games.

“At Nationals this year we were literally standing up holding one another,” Jordan said. “We were all shaking and crying at different parts of his skate.”

Yet now at the Olympics, the Browns – along with 14 other members of their extended family – have come to watch Jason at the sport’s biggest event, a dream that didn’t start to become a reality for Jason until just a few months ago, Jordan says, when he told her over dinner he thought he might make it.

“Being at the Olympics is just a pinnacle for him,” said his father, Steve. “I don’t know what happens next for Jason, none of us do. So to be here, I certainly want him to do well, but to me he’s won already.”

VIDEO: Jason Brown and his undeniable charisma

Brown is one of seven men within striking distance of a bronze medal Friday night, when he’ll skate at the very end of the line-up against skaters he’s long watched from the sidelines.

“He really idolizes these skaters that he’s competing against, competing with,” Marla, his mother said. “He’s going to want to walk away feeling good about his performance. He can’t control how many quads the other guys land.”

VIDEO: Patrick Chan’s quest for perfection

That’s the caveat: Even if Brown skates his best, he lacks figure skating’s quadruple jump, a points-heavy element that Brown hasn’t yet acquired, though he hasn’t needed it to get as far as he had.

Jordan, Jason and Dylan would often perform for their parents at home when they were kids, putting on shows and concerts and plays. An “extremely competitive” bunch, Jordan said, that would compare hand-writing skills and monkey-bar talents.

“Trust me, he’s competitive,” Jordan clarified. “It’s just very internal for Jason.”

Brown’s authentic energy – and ponytail – have made him a household name after his “Riverdance” free skate caught fire in January. Dylan tracked every view on the video that now totals over 3.5 million on YouTube, though Dylan said he stopped alerting Jason of milestones at the two-million mark. “I couldn’t keep calling him,” he admitted.

Jason will aim for another viral performance Friday night in Sochi, though medal or not, his family will be cheering – from way up high.

“The nice thing about being in the last row is that you’re not disturbing anyone,” Marla said. “You can stand up and scream and yell and cheer and it’s fine. So we do.”

“I think him feeling good about his skating is what is important to us,” Dylan added. “I’m more nervous about how he’s going to feel about his skate than where he ends up in the standings.”

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37