Skater Jason Brown hopes to follow in Evan Lysacek's footsteps
Here are my last words on the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
And the first I ever have written about Jason Brown.
But they certainly won't be the last, given how well the 16-year-old sophomore at Illinois' Highland Park High School skated to finish ninth in his senior-level debut at nationals.
Has this put him on a similar path to that of another Chicago suburbanite, Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic men's champion?
Brown's coach, Kori Ade, chooses to see it that way.
Asked if the next Olympics would come too soon for Brown, she said, "I don't think so'' and invoked Lysacek's name.
"That's our goal,'' Ade said of the 2014 Winter Games. "The perfect plan would be for Jason to do what Evan did and go twice.''
Brown, who turned 16 less than two months ago, won't get too far ahead of himself, insisting he is taking things a year at a time.
"It's great to see he was able to do it,'' Brown said, "so you know it actually isn't too much of a fantasy or a dream to get there from where I am.''
There are a number of similarities.
Lysacek was a 15-year-old high school sophomore when he finished 12th at his U.S. senior debut in 2001.
Both Lysacek and Brown moved up to seniors after winning the junior national title the year before.
Both had yet to master the triple axel jump, a litmus test for senior skaters, in their first year at the top level.
Both were in the midst of growth spurts: Lysacek, now 6 feet, 2 inches, was on his way from 5-3 to 5-9 by his second senior nationals. Brown, now 5-5, said he had grown 4 inches since the 2010 nationals.
There are differences too. Lysacek had six trips to senior nationals before his Olympics in 2006, when he finished fourth, one missed jump from a medal. Brown will be able to have just four senior nationals before the 2014 Olympics.
But Lysacek's barely noticed 11th-place free skate at his first senior nationals was a far cry from the dazzling effort Sunday that earned Brown seventh in the free skate and rousing acclaim from the Greensboro Coliseum crowd.
"It was a dream come true to get the audience to stand,'' Brown said.
With his long hair tied in a ponytail that bounced off his neck as he flew around the rink, Brown had huge jumps, striking speed on his speeds and leg extension worthy of a ballet leading man.
Brown, second youngest of the 22 men in the field, finished just .94 behind two-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott and beat 2009 U.S. runner-up Brandon Mroz in the free skate.
"That is the future of men's figure skating,'' three-time national medalist Tonia Kwiatkowski said in her IceNetwork.com commentary on Brown's free skate.
There were only two negative grades from judges among the 180 marks Brown received for technical-element execution -- scored from minus-three to plus-three -- in his short program and free skate.
Both minuses came on a flying camel spin of the highest difficulty level in the short program. Then Brown piled up more total points for the three spins in the free skate than any of the eight men ahead of him in the final standings.
With the problems caused by his growth, Brown and Ade, his coach of 11 years, decided to put off trying the triple axel for another season.
"In his first year as a senior, it was more important to show everyone he could skate,'' Ade said. "Jason has really proved he is a solid competitor.''
Brown goes on from here to the World Junior Championships, Feb. 28 to March 6 in South Korea. He likely will continue to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit for a season or two more.
That's just what Evan Lysacek did.
Photo: Jason Brown spinning in the free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Jan. 30, 2011. Credit: Michelle Harvath / U.S. Figure Skating