Jason Brown‘s free skate from the 2014 U.S. Championships — “Riverdance” — garnered a few million YouTube views, but few saw a bawling Brown as he went to warm up on the ice.
Brown insisted he was thinking about the PyeongChang Olympics — not the Sochi Games in a month’s time — as he was in third place after the short program. With two Olympic spots available.
“I want to soak this up for 2018,” Brown recalled last spring.
Brown picked up his skates that Sunday afternoon before the biggest program of his 19-year-old life. Inside one boot he found a note with recognizable artwork.
“I made it when I was 5,” Brown said. “A sun, and I drew my family, and there’s a house. And I signed the back.”
He opened the card and read a message from his roommate that week. His mom, Marla, the former executive producer of “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
“Follow the joy in your heart and the passion in your soul,” Brown said. (He remembered the words three and a half years later because he keeps the note in his skating bag.)
The ebullient Chicagoland native streamed tears. His coach, Kori Ade, came over to ask what was wrong.
“I’m like, my mom!” Brown cried. “At the moment, I had gotten mad at first, like why would she do this to me, because I’m sobbing. And I just, like, can’t stop crying. But then the tears faded, and it just gave me a different strength.
“It’s not like I opened up this card, and it was like, ‘Just move up one more placement, you got this, love mom!’ ‘The Olympics are so close, they’re in your reach! Love mom!’ It was none of that. It was just enjoy, basically. That gave me a sense of, this is what it’s all about — enjoyment, loving the process.”
Brown regained composure for his free skate a half-hour later. He gave Ade a big hug and brought the Garden crowd to its feet with the highest score of the day by 8.2 points.
Second place overall. Youngest U.S. male singles skater to make an Olympic team since 1976.
Brown placed ninth in Sochi and earned a team event bronze medal. He won his first U.S. title a year later and is a favorite to make his second Olympic team at nationals this week.
Brown’s mom continued to randomly leave notes in his skating bag after Boston.
“If he sees you doing it, it kind of defeats the whole purpose,” she said. “Sometimes if he’s in the bathroom, I’ll try and quickly do it.”
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