Jason Brown: ‘I kill it in a different way’

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Getty Images
0 Comments

Anyone who watched Jason Brown’s “Sinnerman” short program at the 2021 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Las Vegas on Saturday knows how mesmerizing figure skating can be, when a gifted skater teams up with a talented choreographer (in this case, Rohene Ward) who selects just the right material.

They also know how unforgiving the scoring system is, for while Brown’s performance was clean and packed with finesse, he sits a distant third in the standings, well behind Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, who also had superb outings.

The reason is simple: Brown didn’t do a quadruple jump, while his younger competitors each did two. The 26-year-old skater gave up more than 10 points in base value technical points, something nearly impossible to overcome, no matter how brilliant a performance Brown may deliver.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results | TV Schedule

It’s the crack in the 2015 U.S. champion’s armor that’s kept him from winning a second U.S. title, gaining a world medal, qualifying for a second Olympic team. And although the skater is famed for his warm, cheerful nature, it almost prompted him to quit the sport.

“I think, in 2018, I had a pretty harsh breaking point,” said Brown, who placed sixth at the U.S. Championships that Olympic season. “I really didn’t see a future for me in this sport, unless I could do quads.”

What extended Brown’s career was his move from Colorado to Toronto, and coaches Tracy Wilson and Brian Orser, in May 2018. A fresh perspective, combined with the duo’s technical expertise, gave his career a second life.

“I think there was a part of me that knew I had more to give,” he said. “I knew that I was still developing and knew I was still growing as a person and as an athlete.”

Here are more of Brown’s thoughts on his place in a sport dominated by quadruple jumpers.

How did your move to Toronto salvage your skating career, after the 2017-2018 season?

It’s what kept me going. I knew I had to go through some type of a change. And Tracy and Brian really nurtured both sides of me. They’ve helped me technically; they’ve helped me grow artistically. They’ve never for a second made me feel less than anything. They’ve always just pushed me to be better and always saw what could be and how great I’m still becoming.

Jason, when we talked a while back, you said that at first you weren’t sold on your free skate music (Richard Rodgers’ “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”). How have your feelings developed?

[The program] has definitely gone through a lot of phases, as far as the character that I’m playing and finding an attitude or a suaveness that I really enjoy portraying. I think it’s developed really nicely. And I definitely love the program.

It took some time, but I think that Tracy and [choreographer] David [Wilson] did a really great job of trying to push me artistically, but then also blending that with something that I can connect to within the program. It feels special to me. Hopefully, the audience and the judges feel the same way.

We haven’t seen the program since September, when you did it for U.S. Figure Skating’s ISP Points Challenge. Any substantial changes since then?

I don’t know if I can use the words ‘substantial changes,’ but definitely the layout is fairly different. It was really just Tracy and I, and Brian and David and our whole team, just messing around with the program and adapting it. So yeah, there are changes in the patterns, but the concept of the program and the overall feel is fairly similar. But, hopefully, when I perform it here, it will look much more seasoned.

And the last time we talked, you planned to include a quadruple toe loop in the program.

Yes, one is planned.

Are you happy with that, or are you afraid it might sap your energy from the overall performance?

I think there is always that balance of risk versus reward. I never, ever want to sacrifice the performance. That’s why I fell in love with the sport. It was always because of the performance.

And I’ve been in situations where I’ve tried to push myself technically in ways that definitely, as you just said, sap performance at times. So, I wish I could be that person that can do multiple quads and just kill it out there. I kill it in a different way, but I’m still obviously pushing my technical content as well, especially leading into the Olympic year. At the same time, I’m trying to find that balance where I don’t lose the integrity of the programs and the spark that makes my skating so special.

It fascinates me that you said, ‘kill it in a different way.’

I think ‘killing it’ comes down to the performance. It comes down to the quality. It comes down to the speed with which I cross the ice, and the speed at which I spin, and the positions in the air. [It extends] even to the point of the variety of the type of programs I skate, and the performances and the characters that I play when I’m on the ice. I think that I love that I can show these different sides of me when I’m out on the ice and I’m performing, and I can hopefully give people the chance to just sit back and enjoy the pure art of the sport.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
Getty
0 Comments

The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

Thomas Bach
Getty
0 Comments

GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!