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SOCHI 2014

Jason Brown Finishes In Top 10 In Olympic Skating Debut

By Amy Rosewater | Feb. 14, 2014, 5:13 p.m. (ET)
Jason Brown reacts with coach Kori Ade after he competes during the figure skating men's free skating on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. 

No, Jason Brown didn’t get a second medal in these Winter Games.

But the fact that that sentence was even typed is crazy. Not even Brown thought at the start of the season that the Olympic Winter Games could be on his radar, yet here he was in Sochi warming up in the final group alongside of favorites Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Canada’s Patrick Chan.

Brown entered the men’s figure skating free skate in sixth place — just 0.98 out of third place — and although he wound up faltering and dropping to ninth, he will leave Sochi in his usual surreal state of mind.

“It was so exciting,” Brown said. “For so many years you’re watching the Olympic Games and when you’re in it, it’s so exciting.

“I tried to be real calm. It’s my first go at the Olympics. I was hoping for a top 10, and I did that, and I got a bronze in the team event. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll get one in the (men’s).”

Brown did not dazzle in the way he did when he earned a silver medal with this “Riverdance” routine last month at the national championships but he was hardly alone in an evening filled with stumbles and blunders. The newly minted Olympic men’s champion, Hanyu, fell twice and the silver medalist, Chan, bumbled his way through his routine. Denis Ten took the bronze, marking the first Olympic figure skating medal for Kazakhstan.

But Brown’s goal really wasn’t about medaling in these Winter Games, it is about being a factor in the next ones in South Korea in 2018 and the ones after that.

Brown may have another shot at competing his “Riverdance” program once more at the world championships next month in Japan. He is the first alternate for worlds. Jeremy Abbott, the other American man in Sochi, finished 12th in his Olympic finale. Abbott was unsure about whether he will compete at worlds, which would be his final competitive performance.

Brown said he will be heartbroken when has to kiss “Riverdance” goodbye.

“I’m going to miss it so much,” Brown said. “It feels kind of like your kid and you feel like you raised it.

“It’s definitely one of those programs I will never forget. It’s very close to my heart.”

Abbott’s evening was more about perseverance than anything else.  In the short program he took such a hard fall on his opening quad that he crashed face first into the boards. Abbott said the pain in his right side of his body was more painful today than it was after the initial fall.

The Olympic Winter Games are not the place where one tends to laugh about taking such a hard hit, but Abbott said he had seen photos online and said it made him laugh.

“A painful chuckle,” Abbott said. 

The injury forced him and his coaches, Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, to trim his opening quadruple jump into a triple. During the day he listed some of his goals and showed Sato what he had written. She scratched out everything.

“She just wrote down, ‘Skate,’” Abbott said.

That he did.  

It wasn’t pretty or perfect or the skate that Abbott had dreamed about as a kid, but as Abbott put it, “It was a million times better than Vancouver.”

Abbott finished ninth in the Winter Games four years ago, and some fans have criticized him for not being able to rise to the occasion. Abbott made it clear that he has taken some of that to heart.

“They have never stood in my shoes,” Abbott said. “They have never had to do what I have to do. Nobody has to stand center ice in front of a million people and put an entire career on the line for eight minutes of their life when they've been doing it for 20-some years.

“Some people can handle it better than others but everyone has that mental struggle and goes through the same doubts and same things. I'm not alone. Everyone has their highs and their lows, they just come at different moments. Some people have their moment at the Olympics and some people have it at the national championships. And it's always different and everyone's career is different.

“I'm proud to be standing here. I'm a four-time national champion. I'm a two-time Olympian and no one can take that away from me.”

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.

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