Jason Brown: "I love playing a character on the ice, whatever that might be"


August 29, 2016
By Anna Zeitlin
Photos ┬ę Anna Zeitlin, Joy

When I went to meet Jason Brown before the group rehearsal for the Team Challenge Cup exhibition gala, he was already there, talking to another journalist. After a short while he joined me on the high chairs in the mixed zone.

Do you ever get tired of doing all these interviews?

No, it's so fun! I don't mind it at all!

How's your back now, after your injury?

My back is doing so much better! At the moment it's 100%, I'm so thrilled about that. And I feel healthy and strong. I'm so proud of the work I did to get to this point and to just get it healed again.

How much did you have to adjust your training schedule and routine?

Completely! Completely changed and totally shifted. At the beginning, when I just had this injury, I was completely off and couldn't skate, I couldn't work out. All I really was able to do was a 30-minute block of PT a day. I was laughing, because I had this whole weird schedule where I'd have PT at 4:00-4:30PM, and that was the only activity I could do. So I would be wired all night - I'd go to bed at 3AM, wake up at 1:30 in the afternoon, then have my PT and then go to bed the next morning at 3AM. *laughs* It was the weirdest thing! Then eventually I said: "I'm going to schedule PT at 8AM", so I switched it over after 3 weeks of that craze. But I think it was awesome. It was a slow progression. At the start it was 30 minutes of PT a week, and then it became 45 minutes; then it became an hour and then it became an hour of PT and 30 minutes of cardio, and then an hour of PT and 40 minutes of cardio... So it worked its way up. Then I started getting on the ice and we made the same progression. And then we started doing strength training again. So everything was kind of like a puzzle piece, where you start with the middle; or you start with a corner where everyone starts. But then you keep adding the little pieces to continue to make that a bigger picture.

And now you're back to the regular training schedule?

Yes. You know, it's funny, because it's kind of like the new normal. I don't know if I will ever have the same training schedule that I was on before, because of all the different pieces that we've really added for my back and for physical therapy, and we've changed how we did strength training. So everything's kind of different, but it's kind of that "new normal", that's what fall's going to look like.

Are you back training for the quad?

I am! When we were getting ready for the TCC, we had to put it on the back burner for the last week, but I've been training it on the pole harness a lot. Right now we were really focused on getting the programs together and being able to get through them. So that was really the main focus. I'm so excited to get back home and work on the quad. And I already have my two programs for the next year, so I can't wait to make that my focus for the whole summer. I can really focus on it without saying something like "but my programs aren't ready!" I really feel I have a good sense of my programs.

The Team Challenge Cup is not like any other competition. Are there any differences / similarities to the World Team Trophy event which you've participated in in the past?

It's super fun. I think that team events are what makes it so exciting. Your team is in those boxes, cheering you on, because you're competing for them. What made this event super-cool is that it was by continent. And it's the first one, so you really don't know how it's going to play out. And generally, for the team event like WTT the result is based on your placement, and here it was based on scores. So you had no idea what was going to happen, you were going "Whoa, whoa, whoa" the whole time. And some scores were dropped, so I just thought: "I'm going to skate the best I can and hope to add to my team scores and hope to be part of that." But it was awesome!

Do you have any rituals before a competition?

On the day of the short program I wear all black. I have no idea why. At the practice I wear my costume, but I'll wear black pants and black shirt when warming up.

Some athletes like to wear costumes for practice, as you do. Does it help you in some way in the practice?

Yes, it gives me the sense of how it feels like on this ice. Because every week is different, whether it's colder or warmer. Then the costume just feels different on the ice, so I definitely like wearing the costume, and during the warm-up I'll check how it feels, and then I can feel good about it.

Looking at the next season - what do you think you'll be focusing on more?

Something I'm really excited about is that this is the first year ever that I've had my programs set already for next season. Generally, you finish the year, and in the summer you're just really working on training the programs. So I'm really excited that I can really focus on the quads and getting stronger technically, without feeling pressured to get my programs done. Because they are done! Clearly they're going to continue getting stronger and I'm really looking forward to making them better and helping them grow. You know, this week was my first time to do my new short program ever, so I know I have a long way to go. I'm super excited about the progress that I'll be able to make, but at the same time it's really nice to be able to say to myself: "You know what, I'm able to have these programs set and really focus on something else as well."

I don't know which exhibition number you will be skating tonight, but I really liked your previous one to Hip Hop mix and wanted to know who had the idea for that number?

Everything I do for the exhibitions have come from Rohene [Ward], who also does the choreography for my other programs. I absolutely love it. Tonight I'm doing a piece called "Canned Heat" [by Jamiroquai], it's also pretty fun, upbeat. So I'm excited to just get out there and have fun.

You've always said your coach and choreographer like to push and surprise you with new styles…

Always, always!

Do you think there are some music styles you would've liked to try and they still haven't thrown them at you?

Oh my gosh! You know, I'm always up for playing a character. I love playing a character on the ice, whatever that might be. If I'm playing a character from another culture, or from a movie, a musical, a show, or whatever it is - I love the time where I can feel I can act on ice. So I love to explore different characters and genres. You know, something I've never really done is a Spanish piece. I kind of tapped into that but never done something authentically Spanish, like salsa or samba. I think that would be so cool to do. I'd love to do that sometime in the future.

A lot of people know you for your "Riverdance" routine. Maybe there are some other folk dances you would like to try?

Hmm, nothing specific. Something really cool was that "Riverdance" was something my choreographer came up with and said: "This is what I want you to skate to". And I absolutely fell in love with it. So I'm totally up for whatever he throws at me. You know, when I first heard "Riverdance", I was like: "On ice?! I can skate like that on ice? Wait, what?!" But it was the most amazing experience to take what he wanted and do it on the ice and make it into what it was, so anything's possible.

What do you think about the fact that more and more single skaters choose to skate to music with lyrics? Would you like to skate to music with lyrics in the future?

I've seen some people do incredible things with lyrics - in the way they've used them, in the way they've skated to them. So I think it's an awesome addition. But my choreographer and coach have never actually presented a piece that they wanted me to skate to that had lyrics. Which I think is kind of funny, because I'm totally not against it by any means, I would love to do it. I know that next year I'm not going to do lyrics, as you know, because I'm keeping my current programs, but who knows for the following year. I'm totally up for it. I think some people do an amazing job connecting when they have music with words.

Is there a specific song you would’ve liked to skate to using words, rather than as an instrumental piece?

I know! In the light of Prince's recent death - I skated to his "The Question of U" without lyrics, and I think that would've been something really cool with lyrics; that would've been really neat. I mean, in those situations I think there are definitely times when lyrics could really enhance a piece. So I think that would have been really cool to do with lyrics.

You moved to Colorado Springs a few years ago with your coach. Your family wanted you to stay close to home when you were still in school. So who made the decision about the move? 

The biggest thing was that my parents were very adamant. They've said: "You can travel as much as you want in the summer, and as soon as you graduate high school you can move, but until then we want you going to public high school, we want you to finish schooling, we want to raise you, we want you to be home with your family." I think it was really my coach, Kori - she has always wanted to move somewhere. When the senior year was approaching, my parents asked: "OK, what's the plan?" And my coach kind of made this decision that we're going to Colorado, so that's really where it all began. I really just trust Kori so much, and I said: "OK, this is what you want to do." It was a long time coming thing. We were always going to make this move at some point.

Did you have to adjust to the much higher altitude?

Yes, I was actually taking an inhaler the first year I was there, which was the weirdest thing, because I've never ever had an inhaler before. I never had problems breathing anywhere. It was the most bizarre thing for me. But then after that season I never used one again. I think it was just getting adapted to the altitude and being in a different place for the first time.

How often can you come home, for example, for the holidays? 

It depends, based on my travel schedule. I was definitely home more this season because I wasn't competing. But I'm very fortunate that my parents meet up with me no matter where I go. So when the competition season is happening, I basically see them once a month out of the country and don't really go home. It would only be for Thanksgiving and the off-season, if I was going to go home. I spent about two weeks at home this past winter and made little trips home because I was able to.

So you would say Thanksgiving is your main family get-together?

I would say yes. I was supposed to be at NHK this year, so I wasn’t even supposed to be home for Thanksgiving, but it turned out that things changed. I was hurt and couldn't go to NHK, so I ended up being home for Thanksgiving. But if I wasn't home, then my family would have come to Japan.

Is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday then?

I love the fact that Thanksgiving is the time when everyone does come home. I think that's just something special about it. But I love the holiday season in December too. During the winter break our whole family goes to a dude ranch in Arizona; my whole extended-extended family. So it's just so much fun to be out together. It's just whenever the family is together, I'm so happy.

I'm Jewish, and since you're Jewish too I was wondering if you also have a favorite Jewish holiday? It's Passover right now...

Oh my god, yes! I love Hanukkah. Just because it's during that time when we're all together, and we celebrate together as a family, which is the best. We celebrate all the Jewish holidays. I couldn't keep Passover until now, since I have to eat bread during the competition, just to get through the event. But as soon as I leave - time for matzah! And I'm going on Birthright [heritage trip to Israel - ed.] this year, it's going to be my first time in Israel. I'm so thrilled, I can't wait! 

I wanted to also talk a bit about your off-ice endeavors - you mentioned that you were taking communication classes because you're nervous during public speaking. So I've wondered if you've heard of Toastmasters [organization helping people to improve their public speaking skills - ed.]?

No, I didn't, I will look into them! Because it's definitely something I want to do. I'm majoring in communications, because I'd love to be a public speaker, broadcaster, commentator. I really want to be good in front of people, I want to be comfortable, and just be able to share my experiences. I would love to be part of the sport, I'd love to do commentary and broadcasting for figure skating, do some public speaking with USFS and skating community in general, as well as talking to parents, athletes, coaches, people that aren't even involved in this sport, athletes of other sports, people in the workforce.  I'd love to just talk about figure skating. I feel like I can bring a lot of different perspectives to the table that I would love to share.


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