Jason Brown leads U.S. short program; quad debate stoked

Jason Brown
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Jason Brown wowed the crowd (again) and shocked himself, posting the second-highest short program in U.S. Championships history Friday night.

The Sochi Olympian scored 93.36 points and, at 20 years old, is now poised to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since Johnny Weir won the first of his three straight titles in 2004. Brown’s mouth was agape when the score was revealed.

“I was beyond shocked,” Brown told Icenetwork. “Excited doesn’t even fit the term.”

But the competition is close. He leads 2013 World junior champion Joshua Farris by 2.96 points and four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott by 3.43.

Brown will go for his first U.S. title in the free skate on Sunday (NBC and Live Extra, 4 p.m. ET). He’ll be favored to lead a three-man U.S. team for March’s World Championships, a roster that will be chosen after the U.S. Championships.

Brown came to Greensboro, N.C., as the favorite and delivered under that pressure Friday night. He executed a triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe loop combination and a triple Lutz (video here).

Brown was second to Abbott at the 2014 U.S. Championships and finished ninth at the Sochi Olympics. He was the top U.S. man in the Grand Prix season that concluded in December.

Farris, a 20-year-old who beat Brown at the 2013 World Junior Championships, was a surprising second Friday (video here). He had pulled out of a Grand Prix series assignment in November with an ankle injury and finished 11th in his other Grand Prix event. He’s never finished better than fourth at a U.S. Championships.

“I am so surprised that I performed as well as I did,” Farris said in a press conference. “I was terrified going into the short program, so the fact that I skated like that, I was ecstatic.”

Abbott recorded the highest short program ever at the U.S. Championships, 99.86 last year. He skated clean again Friday, two weeks after the death of his father, raising a hand to the air after his short program (video here).

“We made a nice, strong statement that figure skating can be an art as well as a sport,” Abbott said of himself, Brown and Farris.

None of Brown, Farris and Abbott attempted a quadruple jump Friday.

“To be rather blunt, I think this is a rather tired topic,” Abbott said. “We all know that we have to have a quad at the world stage to medal … but I think that attention needs to be paid to detail. … Figure skating is a craft, and the craft can sometimes be a little overlooked. I think it’s important to have both, to be honest. I know Josh can do a quad, and I can do a quad. I haven’t seen Jason, but I’m sure he’s working on it.”

Abbott said he completely rebuilt his biomechanics off the ice leading into this season.

“I’ve been playing catch-up all season,” Abbott said. “The quad is starting to come.”

Brown said he doesn’t want to sacrifice other parts of his skating in order to incorporate the quad, which he has trained but doesn’t currently have in his competition programs.

“I won’t lose my artistry because of the quad,” Brown said. “It will just enhance the program.”

Farris said he’s planning a quad in his free skate and in the short program the rest of the season.

Aaron, in fourth, is looking to bounce back from finishing a disappointing fourth at last year’s nationals and missing the Olympic team. He landed a quadruple jump (Salchow).

Former U.S. silver medalists Adam Rippon (84.71) and Ross Miner (82.25) were fifth and sixth.

Earlier in ice dance, Madison Chock and Evan Bates edged siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani by .11 in an anticipated short dance duel between two Sochi Olympic couples. Both are going for their first U.S. title in the absence of Sochi gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

The U.S. Championships continue with the pairs free skate and free dance Saturday afternoon (NBC and Live Extra, 3 ET) and the women’s free skate Saturday night (NBC and Live Extra, 8 ET).

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Men’s short program
1. Jason Brown — 93.36
2. Joshua Farris — 90.4
3. Jeremy Abbott — 89.93
4. Max Aaron — 85.78
5. Adam Rippon — 84.71
6. Ross Miner — 82.25