Jason Brown stumbles, yet charms as U.S. opens final day of team figure skating event


Jason Brown performs his free skate for the United States in the team figure skating competition. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

With the U.S. sitting third in Sochi’s team figure-skating competition, 19-year-old Jason Brown, making his Olympic debut, got the Russian crowd clapping along for his Riverdance-style free skate to “Reel around the Sun” at the Iceberg Skating Palace Sunday but fell short of the marks he’s capable of after falling at the front end of three-jump combination.

Brown’s score, 153.67, placed him first among the two men to compete so far. Italy’s Paul Bonifacio, who preceded him, fell on his opening quad Salchow and again on a triple axel, and won’t help improve the U.S. standings on the final day of the competition, which consists of the men’s, women’s and dance free skates.

Brown opened with a beautiful triple axel-triple toe into a camel spin. His program gained steam from there, but the fall followed.

Five countries are vying for Olympic medals at the Iceberg Skating Palace Sunday, with Russia leading entering the competition’s third and final day. Canada is second; the U.S. sits a distant third, followed by Italy and Japan.

The medals will be awarded based on the standings after each country sends out skaters to perform their free skates in men’s, women’s and dance.

The pony-tailed Brown, sporting a bright green jeweled top, was the only man without a quadruple jump planned for his program. In fact three of his rivals — Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko, Canada’s Kevin Reynolds and Japan’s Tatsuki Machida –  planned two quads.

The quad is the most difficult jump in figure skating. Brown has been working on it in practice, but just one year removed from juniors, he’s not ready to unveil it in completion yet, opting instead to stage the most artistic performance he can, full of all the technical rigor he can muster.

That formula has gotten him further, at 19, that he dared dream. Until just a few months ago, Brown was dreaming of the 2018 Games. But after taking silver at last month’s U.S. Championships, Brown’s popularity has soared. He was introduced to the Olympic audience tonight as “an internet sensation.”

The men’s free skate will be followed by the women’s free skate. American Gracie Gold will be second up (8:20 p.m. local time), and Russia’s 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia will skate last.

The competition will end with the dance free skate, the strength of the U.S. squad, with Michigan’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White the reigning world champions and 2010 Olympic medalists. They’ll skate last (9:47 p.m. local time).

 

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