Jason Brown competes at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 6, 2018 in San Jose, Calif..
It would have been very easy, if not totally understandable, for former U.S. champion figure skater and 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist Jason Brown to retire last year.
He was emotionally crushed after failing to make the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, and mentally searching for his path forward. He openly felt his competitive career was likely finished.
But then some time passed, and the hurt changed. Brown had a change of heart, as no matter the pain, doubt or questioning, he knew two things: he was not done with competitive skating, and it was time for big changes.
A year after the Olympic disappointment, Brown is finding joy in the slow transformation of his skating. He changed coaches, clubs and cities, leaving his first — and previously only — coach Kori Ade last May to work with the team of two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, Olympic bronze medalist ice dancer Tracy Wilson, Lee Barkell and Karen Preston at the Toronto Cricket, Curling and Skating Club.
“I knew I had more to give, internally, physically, I knew had more left for skating,” Brown said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “… No matter what, I am still proud of my career, my life. Oh my God, look, it would have been fine if it was the end of my career. But I physically wasn’t done.”
Orser and Wilson are working to gradually evolve his techniques and approach, and Brown wants to put the changes on display at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit next week. But don’t expect anything dramatic — yet.
“The biggest thing when I came to Toronto was we sat down and talked about this 18-month process,” Brown, now 24, said. “I am very open and willing to have the process. Change takes time, and I am just up for the challenge, with whatever the progress.”
Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, is working with Orser, Wilson and company to improve his jump technique, help him get the elusive consistent quad he has been chasing and also find new approaches to artistry. It is not a revamp of his skating, according to Brown, but allowing a fresh set of eyes to question every element of his craft.
The progress has been slow, but Brown remains encouraged, as he knew it would not be like flipping a switch. If only it were that easy.
“It’s about consistency, building a very strong base is the focus,” Brown said. “It is about having quality every day, in the elements and skills. Tiny, tiny steps.”
Brown’s 2018-19 season has shown some progress — and some hiccups. He was fourth overall in the Autumn Classic International in Canada, a Challenges Series event, and on the higher-level grand prix circuit finished sixth at Skate Canada before earning the silver medal at the Internationaux de France.
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Then, at the start of December, Brown decidedly won the Golden Spin of Zagreb, a Challenger Series event in Croatia, by dominating the free skate.
Brown has always had lovely artistry and footwork, but he’s struggled with jump consistency.
He is working through the jump issues, this time with Orser and Wilson changing how he rotates. He now is more mindful of head placement, he said, and is incorporating some changes in foot alignment on take-off.
Brown is planning a quad toe for his free skate in Detroit. His programs, the short to “Love is a Bitch” by Two Feet and free skate to a trio of Paul Simon songs, are works in progress. He has been adjusting them during the season, a product of his coaching team getting to know him better.
Brown admits he has times where he wishes the evolution would move faster. In those hard moments, he knows he can call home or his friends to remind him about the bigger picture.
This is his choice.
This is his decision to push himself, see what skating still holds and, maybe, go in a new direction.
And they still believe in him.
“When I first turned to my best friends and family, and I had a rough day, they constantly say, ‘You did not move across the country not to follow through. You did not have those nights last January (leading up to the Olympics) for you to not follow though,’” Brown said, laughing at their tough love advice. “I am taking time finding that patience, and there are more glimpses and moments of progress where it is starting to click.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written fro TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.