Jason Brown sets modest goal as U.S. Championships favorite

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If you’ve ever listened to Jason Brown, his reaction came as no surprise when asked what it would mean if he wins his first U.S. Figure Skating title later this month.

“That [question] gave me total goosebumps everywhere,” the 20-year-old gushed.

Once calmer, Brown said his goal at next week’s U.S. Championships in Greensboro, N.C., is to make the team for the World Championships in March. He can do that by finishing third, possibly lower.

That is quite modest. Brown is expected to become the second-youngest U.S. men’s champion in 24 years (behind Johnny Weir in 2004, when he won the first of three consecutive titles at age 19). Brown is favored partially due to his promising talent. Partially due to a lack of competition.

It’s not about winning, though.

“It’s really about how I skate,” said Brown, the top U.S. men’s finisher at the Sochi Olympics in ninth. “Two solid, clean programs. Any less than that, I would be disappointed, because that’s really what I have control over.”

Brown had trouble staying clean in his two Grand Prix series starts in October and November. He fell on triple Axel attempts in both Skate America programs but still ended up second, the best result for a U.S. man across the entire series.

He dropped to fifth at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow a month later and was the first alternate for the Grand Prix Final, which took the top six skaters from the Grand Prix series.

The Grand Prix Final included zero U.S. men for a third straight year, the longest drought in the event’s 20-year history.

Yet Brown’s point totals at Skate America and the Rostelecom Cup were both higher than any other U.S. man in the Grand Prix season, notably the previous two U.S. champions Max Aaron and Jeremy Abbott.

“I’m going in [to nationals] kind of for the first time not as a complete underdog,” said a modest-again Brown, who was eighth at the U.S. Championships in 2013 and second to Abbott in 2014, earning the second and final spot on the U.S. Olympic team. “I’m going in as a contender. It definitely brings a little pressure.”

Brown said he will not attempt quadruple jumps in Greensboro. He’s still learning them.

One podium threat, even younger than Brown, does plan quads. That’s Nathan Chen, the 15-year-old reigning World junior bronze medalist and U.S. junior champion on the rise much like Brown the previous two years. (More on Chen here)

So, what would it mean for Brown to overtake Aaron and Abbott, hold off Chen and win his first U.S. Championship?

“I hope that it would be just the start of many more titles,” Brown said.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde
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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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