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

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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U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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