Jason Brown is gearing up for the 2019 U.S. Championships where he aims to have a better outing than the one he had in San Jose a year ago. He has been training hard, and feels he has made a lot of progress in his first year in a new environment.
Brown opened his season with a fourth place finish at Autumn Classic in September. He placed sixth at his first Grand Prix event, Skate Canada, and mined silver at his second in France. In early December, Brown won Golden Spin of Zagreb — his first victory since late 2016.
For the most part, it had been an uphill battle for Brown since he moved to Toronto last spring, adjusting and adapting to a new environment, new coaches, and a new training philosophy. But Brown embraced the change and now, after many months of hard work, he is starting to see the fruits of his labour.
“I think the biggest thing when I came to Toronto … they (his coaches) sat me down and talked to me about this 18-month process and how just to feel comfortable it will take that 18 months,” he recalled. “I was very open that I was willing for the process and understanding that change takes time. I was definitely up for the challenge and for whatever that progress looked like.
“At the beginning it was extremely difficult, and I did find myself a little frustrated with how slow the progress was coming along, or how long it took me to really get comfortable with what I was learning. With that being said, I always had that perspective and they (his coaches) were always there with me and they understood — they had done it with skaters in the past, and it does take time. So, I was really able to keep a level head through the whole thing and remain confident and really believe in the process. I think that is what I am still going through.
“We work on quality every single day — on all my elements and all my skating skills in all the programs. It is constantly adapting. I am making these tiny, tiny steps along the way. The thing we are most focused on right now is building a really strong base heading into the next four years. That’s really all I can ask for and that is what I am focused on and what my mentality is wrapped around.”
The Grand Prix in France was somewhat of a revelation for the 24-year-old in that it all “started clicking. I really do think that I hit the starting point in France. I really started to understand their (his coaches) technique and I think it has just continued to get better from there.”
At his final competition in Croatia in December he suffered a slight ankle sprain, and though he said it was a little upsetting, “it was what it was. It was small and nothing to make a big deal about. We adjusted my program a little bit and I taped it up, but I really didn’t bring any light to it because there is really no light to be brought to it. It does not affect me and I am continuing to train the best that I can.”
After almost seven months of working with Tracy Wilson (his primary coach), Brian Orser, Karen Preston and Lee Barkell at the Toronto Cricket Club, Brown said everything is finally starting to gell. He and his coaching team are developing a good understanding of each other as they have learned more about each other. “I have gotten closer with my coaching team — our communication has gotten stronger and we have gotten to know each other a lot better. That is a big momentum builder for me.
“There is now a sense of calmness (at competitions), where I am like, ‘OK, I have done this before with them, we have our routine.′ Whereas, earlier in the season I was like, ‘I don’t really know what is going to happen. Like, how is this going to go?’ That is a huge momentum builder because I have a lot more confidence knowing what to expect. There are not as many surprises — or the unknown — and I think that is really helpful going into a big event … being sure how it is going to play out as far as our routine as coach and athlete and the expectations both ways.
“It has become more of collaboration as far as technique goes. With the growth of my skating, and getting comfortable with the technique they are instilling in me, the programs start to adapt and change around that. You will see differences here and there.”
Brown credits his former long-time coach, Kori Ade, for giving him a solid base and skating skills that have stood him in good stead. “I did go to Toronto with extremely great basics. I am very fortunate with the training that I got from Kori and she gave me this incredible base. I am so thankful and grateful for that. It was cool to bring that base (to Toronto) and continue to build upon that.
“I needed some type of change — a rebirth, a fresh start. One of the biggest draws to Toronto for me was the fact that Tracy and Brian knew very little about me or my skating, and I loved that because they saw me with fresh eyes and this new perspective. It is really starting from scratch, and their perspective of me, what they are seeing, is like from scratch. I am not starting from scratch, per se, but it is more the notion of what they are seeing and the changes they are making to my skating. I give them free rein to tweak whatever they like. It is taking time but it has definitely been worth it.”
When things were tough in the early days of his coaching and lifestyle change, Brown said he turned to friends and family who were supportive with tough love. “If I had a really rough day … they would be like, ‘you did not move across the country to not follow through,’ or ‘I did not listen to you night after night after night last January for you to not follow through.’ At the beginning, that was really the guiding source for me pushing through and being like, ‘OK, this is going to take time — and finding that patience.
“Then there were glimpses and moments that I could see the progress, and there were these moments when things were starting to click. And the moments were like where it was one jump, and then one jump once a week, and then I was able to repeat it. It built that way and it started clicking in practice. But, as soon as I got out in front of an audience and had adrenaline it would fall apart. But those moments of realization … what I was doing and all the work I was putting in was starting to pay off. Those are moments after the ball started rolling that I was able to draw from, especially with the support of my coaches. They knew I was giving it all. There was no shame or disappointment when the result was not there because they knew I was pushing through. So, also having that support definitely gave me the patience because they were patient.”
When asked why he continued to compete after a disappointing Olympic season, Brown said he knew he had more to give. “I am so proud of my career and what I have done. I would be fine if that was the end, but inside me there was that piece that knew I had more to give, and physically I was not done. I just knew I had more. My body was not done yet. I knew I could not hang up my skates because of that.
“The other piece is that I had done things one way for so long. I wanted to know and have the experience of something a little different before I could say, ‘OK, I tried something different. I have decided to hang up my skates.’ I wanted to make that change before I brought the idea of stopping into my head.”
2019 U.S. CHAMPIONSHIPS