Jason Brown, a YouTube sensation, the youngest U.S. Olympic men’s singles skater since 1976 and a Sochi bronze medalist, added another accolade to his résumé Sunday — U.S. champion.
Brown, 20, became the youngest man to win a national championship since Johnny Weir in 2004, holding off Adam Rippon by 2.5 points, the closest margin since Weir and Evan Lysacek had matching scores in 2008. Josh Farris took bronze, seven points back (full results here).
Brown, Rippon and Farris were later named as the three U.S. men to make up the World Championships roster.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now, so excited,” a tearful Brown said on NBC, shortly after his performance. “It’s been such a journey from four years ago [finishing ninth at age 16 in his senior nationals debut, also in Greensboro] to now.”
Brown totaled 274.98 points over two days of competition, with eight triple jumps in his free skate Sunday.
“I was performing to the audience and enjoying every single moment,” Brown said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Rippon posted the highest free skate score by more than six points to jump from fifth after the short program. Farris was second after the short program and held on for his first top-three finish at a U.S. Championships.
Four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott fell twice in his free skate and dropped to fifth place overall in what may have been his final nationals.
Brown, ninth individually at the Sochi Olympics with a team event bronze, didn’t compete in last year’s World Championships after finishing second at the U.S. Championships to Abbott. Brown burst onto the scene at last year’s nationals with his “Riverdance” free skate that garnered a few million YouTube views.
Rippon is the only one of the three with Worlds experience, finishing 13th in 2012 and sixth in 2010. No U.S. man has won a World Championships medal since Lysacek’s gold in 2009.
But few thought Rippon would make this podium. He won World Junior Championships in 2008 and 2009 but steadily fell at the previous three U.S. Championships — second in 2012, fifth in 2013 and eighth in 2014. He considered quitting after last year’s disappointment.
“Where I am today started a year ago, telling my coach, Rafael Arutyunyan, that I didn’t like competing and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Rippon said. “He looked me straight in the eyes and said, buddy, you need to figure it out.”
Rippon said he overcame “demons and battles” with the help of becoming a choreographer, helping Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu with their short programs this season and creating his own.
Still, Rippon was horrible in his Grand Prix season debut at Skate Canada in November, finishing 10th with a fall and three single-revolution jumps. He would have finished sixth at the U.S. Championships if all the men repeated their best Grand Prix series scores.
He was a different skater Sunday. Rippon landed a downgraded quadruple Lutz and eight triple jumps. He said he felt motivated by being “written off” before the event.
“Now I feel like a champion,” Rippon said.
Farris actually beat Brown for the 2013 World Junior Championship and is one month younger, too. He was fourth at the last two U.S. Championships, showing promise, but withdrew from one of his Grand Prix series assignments this season with an ankle injury and finished 11th in the other.
On Sunday, Farris landed seven triple jumps and turned out of a quadruple toe loop landing. He likely lost gold because he had three double toe loops in his program.
“I was terrified,” Farris said. “I was shaking. I was so nervous that I was going to skate like crap.”
Gold: Jason Brown — 274.98
Silver: Adam Rippon — 272.48
Bronze: Josh Farris — 267.98
4. Max Aaron — 259.19
5. Jeremy Abbott — 258.29
Correction: In a previous version of this article, Jason Brown was inaccurately said to have skipped the 2014 World Championships. He was not named to the team.