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Jason Brown didn’t think he’d make PyeongChang without a quad, sees season as stepping stone

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Jason Brown spoke with NBCSports.com/figure-skating in Detroit after winning bronze at the 2019 U.S. Championships about his goals for the rest of the season, the brand-new World Team jacket he donned, and what bugs the Sochi Olympian the most about not ever landing a clean quadruple jump in competition.

How do you feel about the championships overall?

I feel great. It was a big stepping stone. I’ve just been adapting and changing so much this season that each step of the way I’ve learned something and been able to take something new from each experience. I’m super proud of the growth that I’ve made this season coming from my first event at Autumn Classic to now, I’m just a completely different skater. I’m so proud of that. I’m just looking forward to continuing that through the rest of the season.

Nice new World Team jacket. Did you expect to be on the world team?

It wasn’t even a goal as far as overall goals. Obviously, you don’t ever not want to be on the world team! I was so focused on the day to day process that we were going through and all the changes. Especially with such a rough start, at the beginning of the year, I really didn’t have expectations as much as I wanted to stay committed to the changing process.

So no, but that being said, I came into this event and I looked at Tracy [Wilson, his coach along with Brian Orser] and I was like, ‘All I wanna do is be at more events so I can have more opportunities to travel with you guys to keep learning.’

The only way to get experience with competition with new coaches are at competition with new coaches! I was like, ‘I just wanna travel with you and Brian more and more!’ When I found out I get two more events with them, I was like, ‘yes!’ That makes me even more excited than the fact that it’s Worlds. I’m so excited that it’s Worlds and it’s in Japan. But I’m just excited that I get another opportunity to keep putting all these changes to the test.

Was another goal you had this season to hold onto your artistic qualities?

Absolutely. I think one of the things that drew me to Tracy and Brian was the fact that they didn’t just look at me as a technical project. They weren’t just like, ‘Okay, we need to work on your jumps.’ Which obviously, we’re working a ton on. But they looked at it as like, ‘We want to continue growing you as an artist on the ice. And keep working on the in-between skating and taking this new judging system and really maximizing these plus-fives.’ Threes aren’t good enough! I want all fours and fives – and even then, I want all fives. They’re really pushing me to be the absolute best version of myself on every single element I’m doing. They’re really looking at quality and that goes down to the skating skills. I love that they pay so much attention to that.

Have you thought about differences training at altitude [in Colorado Springs] compared to now, training in Toronto?

I have to say I didn’t really feel it. I went to Champs Camp this year and it was my first time doing it, the team camp, not having lived in Colorado.

I couldn’t even barely get through the programs. But I know it’s in August, so it is very early on, but that was very shocking to me. Normally, what I can do at home, I can do there.

As the season’s gone on I haven’t really noticed the difference. When I was training in Colorado, the biggest difference was that I was never concerned about the endurance whenever I went somewhere else. I was always like, there are other things to worry about, and endurance wasn’t a thing.

Now, not being at altitude, I’m thinking about, ‘Oh now the endurance. What’s it gonna be like?’ Every time I find out I’m competing at altitude, I’m like, ‘Aah… see how it goes.’ But I’m trained. They’ve trained me well.

Do you get sick of defending quad-less programs? Annoyed?

Unfortunately… not even unfortunately, because I think it’s also made me the skater that I am today. Throughout most of my career I’ve always been a step behind in jumps. I’ve been asked and asked and asked and asked.

I do have to say the only times that it gets frustrating is when it affects me. When I’ve allowed it to make me feel less of a competitor and less of a skater, feel like I don’t deserve spots because I don’t have the technical difficulty. That’s not other people putting on me, I think it just… you hear it.

Even if I give some excitement about [the quad], ‘oh it’s going well,’ they look at me and they’re like ‘mmm, are you sure?’ It makes you question it.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of that got to me last season. I really truly believed in my heart that there wasn’t a spot for me on the Olympic team unless I could land a quad in competition. That’s the only time where I think it affects me negatively.

So no, I don’t mind at all. But if I start to let it affect me, which I did unfortunately last season, then it gets overwhelming. If I can stay strong… it’s your job as journalists! I don’t look at it any other way than like… if you didn’t ask me about it, that’s part of the sport. It’s part of the job.

MORE: Costume drama: Jason Brown’s apparel odyssey

As a reminder, you can watch the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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