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.
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.”
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.”
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.”