SOCHI, Russia — On a night loaded with figure skating distractions, teenage Olympic newcomer Jason Brown of the USA was cool as ice. His veteran teammate, two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott, crashed into the boards when he fell on his big opening jump. But he, too, met the test by getting up and finishing solidly.
Brown is in sixth place after the men’s short program Thursday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace. Abbott is 15th.
Brown nonetheless is within less than a point of the three skaters in front of him in third through fifth place. That sets him up for a shot at a bronze in the free skate Friday night.
“I had my headphones in until I got into the ice. … I was just really focused on going out there and doing what I had to do,” the pony-tailed, 19-year-old Brown said after his short program at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Brown, who is from Highland Park, Ill., doesn’t yet have the big move – the high-scoring quadruple jump. But skating to The Question of U by Prince, he landed his jumps: triple axel, triple flip/triple toe loop combo and triple lutz.
The judges gave him score of 86.00, surpassing his previous personal best of 84.77.
That put him with range of third place Javier Fernandez of Spain (86.98), fourth place Daisuke Takahashi of Japan (86.40) and fifth-place Peter Liebers of Germany (86.04).
Thirty skaters competed. Brown was in the third group. Right before he took the ice, the group before him delivered the unusual.
First, Russian star Evgeny Plushenko (whom Brown idolizes) pulled out due to a back injury after warming up. Plushenko had shocked Brown during an Olympic practice when he came up to him and said he knew who the teenager was an admired him.
“He’s been so nice to me and so supportive. … He is beyond like that passionate, driven skater. … So I know it was frustrating that he had to pull out. … He’s really a true champion,” said Brown.