|Jason Brown competes during the men's free skate at 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America at the Sears Centre Arena on Oct. 25, 2014 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Jason Brown’s 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America experience revolved around one word: Chicago. With the help of an abundantly enthusiastic audience, Brown returned home to the Chicagoland area (after moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, last year) to earn a silver medal — his best grand prix finish to date.
But Brown’s performances had more ties to Chicago than just the insanely excited fans. The Highland Park, Illinois, native skated his short program Friday to “Juke” by Little Walter, an innovative blues musician from Chicago. Little Walter’s daughter, Marion Diaz Reacco, was in the stands supporting Brown and her father’s legacy. The performance brought her to tears and made a figure skating fan out of her.
“It’s just so cool that they came out to support me,” Brown said. “I can’t even believe it and I feel so lucky that I got to perform in front of her, and it makes me so happy that she enjoyed it.”
To top it off, Brown’s performances this week supported a Chicago charity, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. Earlier this week, he announced a partnership with the group where he will donate stuffed animals that are thrown onto the ice after his performances to Ronald McDonald House families.
Brown spread the word and his fans did not disappoint, tossing even more gifts to him than normal — including a roll or two of paper towels. The abundance of gifts was so overwhelming that they were still being collected when U.S. teammate Jeremy Abbott took to the ice.
“I’m just so proud to be from Chicago and so proud it all turned out the way it did,” Brown said. “It was like toy central out there! I feel so fortunate that I have that type of support and was able to earn a medal for the U.S. here at home.”
While his silver medal was a personal high, Brown has plenty of ground to cover before he can contend with the top men in the world, including Japan’s Tatsuki Machida, who won the event with 269.09, nearly 35 points ahead of Brown’s 234.17. Taking bronze was Canadian breakout star Nam Nguyen, who was competing in his first senior grand prix. Abbott placed fifth with 219.33 and Douglas Razzano was eighth (204.28).
Brown’s performance Saturday, however, left him with room to improve throughout the season. He fell on his triple Axel and had a few mistakes that ensued after.
“I had a few slips after that but I was fighting through the whole thing and I wasn't going to let that stop me,” Brown said. “I wasn't going to let that get in the way of the integrity of the program. I'm really excited about that recovery and it makes me that much more excited about the growth to come with the program.”
Abbott’s finish was a disappointment for the two-time Olympian who was second after the short program. Abbott doubled his quad toe loop and his jumps derailed from there.
Going into this season, Abbott, 29, was working on making changes to his physiology and technique. They seemed to pay off in the short program, but when it came to the free skate, Abbott said his body was in a tug of war between old Jeremy and new Jeremy.
“I think at this point it was 20 years of bad habits that kind of overtook three months of good habits,” Abbott said.