Jason Brown never imagined he would draw more than 100 fans to watch him skate on YouTube. Yet since earned a silver medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month in Boston, close to 4 million fans have flocked to YouTube to check out his skating.
The 19-year-old skater with his now well-recognized ponytail gave his fans another reason to log on tonight after he performed another marvelous routine, this time at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Skating to “The Question of U,” by Prince, Brown skated well enough to finish sixth in the men’s figure skating short program and earned a personal-best score of 86.00 points. The performance landed Brown in the coveted final group of skaters for the free skate Friday night, and he is in striking distance of a bronze medal as he is just .98 of a point out of third place.
It is an astounding spot for Brown to be in considering he began the season wondering if she should jump to the senior level or remain in the junior ranks.
“I am so excited,” Brown said. “I did a personal best and it's been like that all season. I went out there and I wanted to skate the way.”
He entered these Olympic Winter Games with no expectations of winning a medal in the men’s event and now is chasing the likes of three-time world champion Patrick Chan, European champion Javier Fernandez and Japanese sensation and short program leader Yuzuru Hanyu.
Brown, just 19, does not have a quad jump in his arsenal but that has not seemed to preclude him from experiencing great success this season. What he does have is an emotional performance style and a knack for entertaining crowds, which is an art that is also appreciated in skating’s scoring system.
"The quad is usually a point getter, of course,” Brown said. “Because I don't do one I have to do everything else well and get as many points as possible with the elements I do."
Brown skated a clean program, landing his triple Axel, triple-triple combination and a triple Lutz, but also delighted the crowd with his intricate footwork and choreography.
His teammate, Jeremy Abbott, meanwhile, started the night on a down note but ended up much higher than he could have expected. He is in 15th place with 72.58 points, but considering he left the arena with ice on his hip, it could have been much worse.
After crashing into the boards on the landing of his opening quad, the national champion could have easily just called it quits.
He had fallen hard. Very hard. And as he was lying on the ice, all sorts of thoughts began racing through his mind. He was there for about 10 seconds, but for him, the time there seemed like a lifetime. In fact, it was so long that his coach, Yuka Sato, said she actually began jiggling the door to get onto the ice because she wasn’t sure if he was going to be OK.
But then, as he started to climb back up on his feet, the fans in the Iceberg Skating Palace began to cheer.
“I didn’t quite know how to react,” Abbott said. “I wasn't sure if I should stop and go to the referee because I think this is a two-point deduction. Do I take the deduction and regroup and restart? I didn’t know quite to do. I stood up and the audience was screaming, and you know, the second I heard that, that was the decision-making process.
“I said, ‘Forget it all, I’m not going to give up.’ Really, it’s because of them that I finished the program, honestly.”
Abbott, who was hoping to erase the demons of his 2010 Olympic performance in Vancouver, where he placed ninth, certainly was frustrated that they had re-emerged again in Sochi. But he wasn’t going to end his Olympic journey lying down.
And he got up in extremely remarkable fashion.
Although he was off with his music, he quickly got back into his program and the crowd applauded loudly when he landed his triple Lutz-triple toe combination and he held on to the landing of his other big element, the triple Axel. Somehow, he even managed to end his program on the final note of his music.
“As disappointing as this is, I’m not ashamed,” Abbott said.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she is covering her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.