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.