|Jason Brown competes in the men's free skate at the 2015 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 25, 2015 in Greensboro, N.C.|
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When Jason Brown was given the opportunity to make an opening statement at a press conference after winning his first senior national title, instead of speaking about his performance or what it meant to earn the gold medal, he looked at the silver and bronze medalists sitting on the stage beside him — Adam Rippon and Joshua Farris — and began with:
“I am so honored and humbled to be with these two guys up here.”
He spoke about his relationship with Farris, who he has competed against since the two were at the juvenile level in 2005. Brown noted this was the fourth consecutive year they stood on a podium together, dating back to 2012 when Farris won silver and Brown bronze at the Junior World Championships.
“It’s just so cool to continue to grow together, and I’m so proud of him and he was unbelievable today,” Brown remarked.
Then he spoke about Rippon’s artistry.
That’s who Brown is: the epitome of humbleness — and excitement.
“Oh my god that was amazing and amazing, and I’m so excited for him and excited to be next to him here,” he exclaimed about Rippon.
Regardless of how impressive his fellow medalists performed Sunday evening, this weekend was Brown’s time to shine. Ultimately, he’s the one who came out on top with the highest total score, 274.98, to take the gold at the 2015 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It was exactly what Brown was hoping for and working toward after earning silver to four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott at last year’s nationals.
“I worked extremely long hours on consistency so I was really excited to see it pay off today,” he said.
Prior to flying to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the competition, his coach, Kori Ade, challenged her athletes to skate 40 clean programs — a combination of short and long — within 30 days. Brown, who is always up for a challenge, exceeded expectations, finishing his 40 clean programs within 26 days, since he was on vacation for four.
Brown’s victory comes at a venue that has historical significance for him. He made his senior debut at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
“I have the absolutely best memories from here — the crowd, the people, the fans, the people who worked behind the scenes,” Brown recalled. “It was all just about coming back and having all those great memories.”
Rippon, on the other hand, finished fifth in 2011 — a placement he has become all too familiar with. He also landed in fifth at the U.S. championships in 2010 and 2013. And it looked like he might do so again this week, as he sat in fifth after the short program.
On Sunday, he changed his luck on the Greensboro ice when he set a new national record in the free skate with a score of 187.77 to best Abbott’s free skate score from the 2012 U.S. championships of 183.35.
With his historic performance, Rippon leapt out of his fifth-place slump, surpassing Max Aaron and Abbott, who finished fourth and fifth, as well as Farris, who was second after the short.
“I came into this week kind of feeling that I had been written off and I really wanted to change that talk about me,” Rippon said. “I wanted to come here and I wanted people to see me as a champion. And I feel like a champion today and I feel like a winner. I went out there and went for the quad Lutz, and after that I let it go and made sure I skated a really solid program.”
It was an impressive reawakening for the 2012 U.S. silver medalist who finished eighth at last year’s championships, after which he told coach Rafael Arutunian he did not like competing and wasn’t sure what to do.
“He looked me straight in the eyes and he said, ‘Buddy, you need to figure it out,’” Rippon recalled. “And so, here I am today and I’ve figured it out.”
One new focus in Rippon’s life that has helped his own skating is choreography. This season, he choreographed the short programs for his friends Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu, who finished first and fourth in the ladies short program. In the end, Wagner won the event with a new national record for her free skate and total scores.
Wagner, who is four years older than silver medalist Gracie Gold and eight years older than bronze medalist Karen Chen, became a source of inspiration for training mate Rippon.
“It’s so weird,” Rippon said when Brown and Farris — both five years his junior — were praising him during the press conference. “I feel like I’m Ashley because everyone is so much younger than me, but thank you.”
For Farris, the bronze medal was bittersweet. He set personal best scores in the short program, free skate and total, as well as improving in placement from the pewter medals he won the past two years, and he made his first world championship team — all after rebounding from an ankle injury earlier this season. But he couldn’t help think of what could have been.
During Farris’ free skate, he did a double toe loop in his planned triple flip-triple toe loop combination, which would put him over the limit of the two allowed double toe loops, meaning he received no points for his final combination, triple Lutz-double toe loop.
Had Farris received the base value 7.3 points for that combination, he would have won.
“To be honest, yes,” Farris said when asked if he was kicking himself for the error. “Who wouldn’t? But this year didn’t start out well at all, so I think this is still the beginning. It’s the first year of the next quad. It’s the beginning. It’s an improvement from the last two years and I may be kicking myself now but it’ll keep me determined to improve.”