SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Highland Park’s Jason Brown can’t stand still when he’s not on the ice, which mirrors how he is while skating.
And being at the Sochi Olympics only enhances his off-the-charts enthusiasm.
“Nothing makes you more proud and honored than to be part of a U.S. team, and to skate alongside your other teammates,” the 19-year-old Brown said Friday as he prepared to represent the U.S. in the team competition men’s free skate on Sunday. “Growing up in the figure skating world, my big goal was just to be competing for Team USA. You know, watching Olympic montages and how Americans have so much team spirit.”
It’s difficult to imagine anyone having more spirit of any kind than the lively Brown. He’s become a YouTube sensation with more than 3.5 million hits for his free skate at nationals to “Reel Around the Sun” from “Riverdance.” That was his breakthrough performance of a breaking-out season in which he surged from the middle of the U.S. pack to runner-up behind Jeremy Abbott for the American championship.
He will replace Abbott in the team competition after the four-time U.S. champ struggled in the short program and finished seventh.
Unless he somehow sneaks off with a medal in Sochi, Brown can’t possibly match the attention his long program in Boston drew from around the world.
“That hasn’t quite hit me yet,” Brown said. “It definitely doesn’t register that is the case and that many people have seen it. It’s a huge honor to have the number of people who have reached out to me — and many who were not figure skating fans.”
That includes the Texas A&M diving team; several members ran into him and immediately recognized Brown from the video.
It also includes the cast of “Riverdance.”
“It really means something to me for so many people from different sports and lifestyles coming up to me ... and that’s so great.”
Brown accused his 15-year-old brother, Dylan, of manufacturing the number of people who have seen the YouTube cut.
He recalls Dylan telling him how the video began trending on Twitter and BuzzFeed.
“The next morning, I woke up and it was 1 million and definitely something that was growing,” Brown said.
Now that he has such a YouTube following, Brown also has to deal with expectations. While he’s not considered a medals challenger in Sochi and isn’t likely to take the focus away from favorites Patrick Chan, Yuzuru Hanyu and Evgeni Plushenko, he will be no stranger to the TV audience watching the games.
Brown isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight. He’d rather seize it, though not in an egotistical way. It’s all about the entertainment for him.
“I love to perform for the crowd,” he said. “When I get on the ice, all I want to do is showcase my work and put out my best performances. You work so hard, alone, in practices. You want to show that off.”
He’ll attempt to do so Sunday, then again next week in the individual men’s event. He claims there will be no intimidation factor from being on the biggest stage of all, before a crowd not rooting for him.
“I want to give them a performance that will make them become Jason Brown fans and USA fans,” Brown said. “I don’t look at that as daunting or scary. I want to get them on our side.”
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