After Hitting His Peak At These Games, Figure Skater Jason Brown Is Savoring The Moment
by Lynn Rutherford
Jason Brown reacts during the men's single skating short program at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 8, 2022 in Beijing.
The question on skating fans’ lips: Will Jason Brown compete again?
His answer? Maybe.
“Ever since I moved to Toronto, it’s been about this exact moment,” Brown told reporters in the mixed zone after his sixth-place finish in the men’s figure skating event Tuesday at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
“So, I have no idea,” he added. “It’s not something we’ve had any conversations about. It is not something I’ve allowed myself to think past. It would be really hard to mentally wrap my brain around coming to these Olympics and thinking, ‘This is my final event.’”
At a press conference on Wednesday, he again begged off.
“It’s not as clean cut as, ‘No, this is my last event.’ Time will tell,” he said.
At 27, the skater from Highland Park, Illinois, is the oldest singles’ competitor on Team USA’s roster, five years senior to Nathan Chen, the newly crowned Olympic champion. Brown is far from the oldest in the event, though; six of the men who competed in Beijing are his elder.
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) February 8, 2022
Brown’s senior international career stretches back to the 2013-14 season, when he leapfrogged other contenders to qualify for the Sochi Games, where he placed ninth and won a team bronze medal.
That season’s free skate to “Riverdance” went viral, garnering millions of views on YouTube. It encapsulated everything that set Brown’s skating apart: expressive body movements, supreme musicality, total commitment to performance — modern dance on ice.
“Eight years ago, it was the start,” Brown said. “It was incredible, right place at the right time. (I) ended up on that Olympic team at 19 years old. It felt like I was invincible at that point. And it was ‘anything could happen’ and I had this big, bright future.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.
Jason Brown skates during the men's single skating free skating at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 10, 2022 in Beijing.
Brown won the U.S. title in 2015. A back injury prevented him from defending the crown in 2016, and since then, it has been all Chen, who has won six straight U.S. titles. The low point was 2018, when Brown placed sixth and did not represent Team USA at the Winter Games in PyeongChang.
The sport had moved away from him, at least concerning jumps. In Sochi, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan won the first of his two Olympic titles with a single clean quadruple jump, a toe loop, in his free skate; four years later, Chen landed six quads, five of them cleanly, to win the free skate in PyeongChang.
Despite chasing the four-revolution jump for a decade, Brown has only landed a fully rotated quad once in competition: a salchow at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble, France, in November, where he won the bronze medal.
“I lost a lot of belief in myself, and I felt I was slipping away and fading,” Brown said. “But at the same time there was this weird disconnect because it also felt like I was improving so much and I was growing so much, but it wasn’t being valued or it wasn’t being appreciated, or I felt like I still wasn’t enough.”
After his disappointing result at the 2018 U.S. Championships, Brown considered quitting. But a desire to continue to develop as a skater — and to compete on Olympic ice once again — inspired him to relocate from Colorado to Toronto, where Tracy Wilson and Brian Orser coach him.
“It has been an eight-year build-up of getting back to this point,” Brown said. “Every single day, trying to find that belief in myself, believe that I can do it, that I am worthy. Each step along the mountain, trying to keep climbing, climbing, climbing, and not looking back too often. Just keep focused on that journey.”
“What he brings cannot be ignored,” Wilson said. “He could teach clinics for every step sequence and position details. He is integral to what the sport needs.”
Even without a quad, Brown has placed in the top 10 each of the four times he competed at the world championships. In Beijing, he earned the highest marks of his career, with only Chen receiving higher scores for program components (skating skills, performance, transitions, musical interpretation and composition). He placed sixth overall, and might have placed fourth, had he not doubled a planned triple salchow in his free skate.
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) February 10, 2022
“I would love, love, love to be one of those skaters that could push the sport in that (technical) direction as well,” Brown said. “That’s not how the chips fell for me. I am going to push it the way I know how. One of the coolest things about skating is that everyone, when you step on the ice, can put out their unique style. I don’t want anyone to ever forget that.”
Brown is not slated to compete at the 2022 world championships to be held late next month in Montpellier, France. Ilia Malinin, the 17-year-old U.S. silver medalist, was named to the world team, along with Chen and fellow 2022 Olympian Vincent Zhou. Brown is first alternate.
Even If his two performances in Beijing mark the final time he competes, Brown has no plans to leave figure skating entirely. He may teach those clinics Wilson predicted.
“The amount of knowledge that I have within this sport is way too great to ever walk away and not give it back to the next generations,” Brown said.
“I don’t know what it’s going to look like, if it’s in coaching, choreography, getting to dabble working with different skaters. I don’t know what it will look like, mentoring, but 100 percent I want to stay involved.”