When he was three years old, Brown’s older sister Jordan was invited to a skating birthday party in his native Highland Park, Ill. His mother, wanting to ensure that her daughter was comfortable with skating, took both Jordan and Brown skating.
“My mom was afraid that my sister would feel left out because she didn’t know how to skate, so she signed my sister and me up to take Learn to Skate classes at the rink by our house,” Brown remembered. “I have been skating ever since, but my sister stopped.”
Brown continued to train, and started to make his mark in skating early on in his career. At the 2007 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland and just 11 years old, he captured the juvenile boys’ gold medal.
“Winning juvenile was a dream come true,” Brown said. “I was a second year juvenile, and I qualified for junior nationals the year before but didn’t make the final round. I was really excited and felt super prepared to compete. All I really remember is focusing on executing each move as choreographed, and taking each element one step at a time. I skated early so I had about fifteen more skaters until I realized what had just happened. I was so excited and so reassured to see that all the hard work I had put in that year had really paid off.”
He followed that up with a silver medal the following year on the intermediate level at junior nationals in Salt Lake City.
“I was so excited to go into the competition with two triples,” Brown shared. ” I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but I placed second in the initial round, so I was really pumped to go into the final. I got fifth in the short, and was a little bit disappointed, but proud to be in the final warm up group. I tried my best to stay relaxed in the long because I knew I had no leeway to mess up if I wanted to place. So when I finished with a clean long and got second, I was absolutely thrilled and so excited to go home and train to try to make it to big nationals as a novice.”
At the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland, Brown made his first appearance at “big nationals” competing as a novice man. He finished the short program in second place, and ended up winning the bronze medal in the competition.
“All I could think about when I was at nationals was that I made it, and all I needed was to get used to competing at this level,” he recalled. “As people tend to not come to the novice events, the competition was pretty relaxed. I was still nervous, but I was excited to be there. I was honored to be called a national medalist at big nationals.”
The following season Brown took the big jump up to the junior level and qualified for the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash. Though he finished in second place in both sections of the competition, Brown managed to win the title in one of the closest competitions at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
“To tell you the truth, being at nationals was amazing,” Brown admitted. “I felt like I was not the baby anymore. More people came to the event, and it was exciting. I was so pleased to be in second after the short. It did give me some pressure because I was less than a point away from first, but I tried to stay in the moment and take one day at a time. Then, the long came. I was second in my group and very nervous. I tried my best to stay relaxed, and as the program went on, I began to feel at one with the ice and comfortable. After getting the results, I was in first place, but the first place competitor was last to skate. As his scores came up, I was in total shock. I couldn’t move and was so excited. It was such an amazing experience.”
In the fall, Brown was selected to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit for the first time, being assigned to skate in the event in Courchevel, France.
“I was very happy and thrilled about my performances,” Brown said of his silver medal winning efforts. “I loved the feeling of competing for my country and bringing back a medal. Knowing what I had just done was spectacular, and all I could think about was where U.S. Figure Skating would send me for my next event.”
Brown was next assigned to Karuizawa, Japan, for a second Junior Grand Prix event, but this time he was not as successful.
“It was one of the best learning experiences that I have ever had, and looking back I was so lucky to have that opportunity,” Brown reflected. “I skated clean in the short and long, or at least I thought I skated clean until I got the results and learned that I had seven downgrades throughout the competition. It was definitely frustrating, and I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong.”
On his way back to Chicago, Brown thought about what happened in Japan, and decided to use his sixth place finish as fuel for motivation.
“I of course came to the realization that I didn’t make the (Junior Grand Prix) Final, but I also left with tons of goals in mind,” said the ambitious Brown. “I knew that I needed to skate faster into my jumps, get that triple Axel for next season, and especially don’t get too discouraged if I was assessed with downgrades. I was definitely discouraged at first, but soon after learned that its not worth getting too down about. I mean it is super upsetting, but it drove me to work harder than ever.”
Brown headed home to prepare to compete at the 2011 Midwestern Sectionals in Ann Arbor, Mich., in order to qualify for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Competing at the senior level for the first time at sectionals, Brown easily won the competition, and qualified to compete at nationals once again.
“Nationals was an unbelievable experience,” Brown said rather excitedly. “It was definitely one of the best experiences I have had in my skating career so far. From the start of the week until the end, it was amazing. Being on the ice with such big name skaters was so surreal. Taking the ice for the short program was so exciting, and I tried my best to stay focused and not get distracted by the audience. Going into the long, I was so excited. I felt so prepared and had been running clean programs all week. All I wanted to do was skate the skate I knew I could. My long program skate ran just as I had practiced. I was so happy and so blown away by the skate I just put out, and was so honored to be standing in the center of the arena with a standing ovation. I can’t express the unreal feelings I was feeling at that moment.”
Brown’s ninth place finish was good enough to earn a spot to compete at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Gangneung, South Korea.
“I found out that I was named to the Junior Worlds team about an hour and a half after the event ended. I was so excited to have another opportunity to represent my country one last time that year,” Brown explained.
Brown finished the competition in seventh place, just a few points out of sixth, and established himself as a medal threat over the next couple of seasons.
“It was unbelievable,” Brown said of his experience in South Korea. “It was amazing to have three practice days before I even started competing, and I was in Korea. Like always, competing is nerve-wracking, but I was so excited to have the privilege to compete for the U.S. I ended the competition with two clean skates and a few edge calls on my triple Lutzes. It was a bit of a bummer to get some of the calls I did, but it gave me more to work on when I got home.”
Brown has worked with 2011 Professional Skater’s Association’s (PSA) Developmental Coach of the Year Kori Ade for 11 years, and seems completely happy with the arrangement.
“She is like my second mom and the most dedicated coach I have ever seen,” Brown said proudly. “I can honestly say that I am not going to be coached by anyone else but her for the rest of my skating career. I am so fortunate for that.”
Additionally, Brown works with U.S. Championships competitor Rohene Ward on choreography.
“He has done all of my programs for the past few years, and I can’t express how gifted he is at what he does,” Brown asserted. “I am completely lucky to have the privilege of working with him. All the programs that he choreographs are amazing and unique.”
The 2010 junior champ trains all over the Chicagoland area, getting ice time wherever he can get it.
“When you live in Illinois, you really don’t train in one specific rink – sometimes you train in five,” he chuckled. “Although it doesn’t sound so great, I do feel fortunate to get to train on so many different ice surfaces and atmospheres. I feel like the diversity really helps my skating.”
Lately, Brown has been putting in long hours at the rink, skating about four hours each day, and working off ice for several more.
“During the summer, I am on ice about four to four and a half hours a day,” he explained. “I do stretching for two more hours, and have off ice training twice a week for an hour. I am at the rink from 9 A.M. until 5 P.M.”
Brown has been working furiously over the summer to improve his skating, and has definite goals in mind on how to improve his standing.
“I have really been working on my spin positions, skating skills, and on the triple Axel,” he shared. “I believe that I need to skate faster, attack harder, execute more sharply, master the triple Axel, and soon, a quadruple jump.”
Brown made his season debut just this past week at Skate Milwaukee, and he also plans to compete at Glacier Falls in Anaheim, Calif., and the Dupage Open in Buffalo Grove, Ill., in August.
“I am excited to get that first time experience competing with my programs,” Brown said before leaving for Milwaukee. “I just finished my new programs and I love them both. I can’t wait to debut them.”
Brown will skate to Bajofondo Tango Club’s Grand Guignol for the short program and Flow Like Water from the soundtrack of The Last Airbender for his free skate. He will compete once again on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, and is excited to see how things go.
“I would love to (medal) at my first international assignment, earn a second, and (medal) there as well,” Brown said. “I want to qualify for and win a medal at the Final this year, and I want to go back to Junior Worlds and win a medal there, too. I want to qualify for nationals again and finish in the top seven. Finally, I want to master the triple Axel and put it into my programs.”
Brown is a full time student at Highland Park High School, where he will be a junior in the fall, which he admits to being a big challenge.
“The school has been very supportive of my skating,” he said appreciatively. “I go to school from 8 A.M. until 12:25 P.M. during which I take my core classes, gym, and electives. I am pretty much taking a full course loadcourse load to graduate, and I go to class straight through with no breaks throughout the day.”
Because he trains throughout Chicago, Brown has been fortunate enough to live at home with his parents Marla and Steve Brown, 18 year-old Jordan, and his 13 year-old brother Dylan.
“My family is so supportive in everything I do, and I can’t thank them enough for being there for me every step of my journey,” he said proudly. “I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without them, and I am so honored to be a part of the Brown family.”
After his skating career is over, Brown hopes to work with children.
“I would love somehow to work with kids in the athletic field, and help them chase their dreams, either academically or physically,” Brown explained. “As of now, I am thinking about becoming a teacher, a coach, or a sports psychologist. Any of these three jobs would be an honor to have.”
And for the Brown fans, he still has his trademark ponytail, though he has been agonizing over it for some time now.
“I would love to hear people’s opinion about my hair – whether good or bad,” he told Golden Skate. “I love having long hair, and it’s sort of my thing, but I always question if I should cut it off or not. I just don’t know when I should do it. I ask people all the time if I should cut it or not, and I get mixed responses.”
Brown even enlisted the help of his coach recently, asking her to poll folks from the skating community about his hair.
“I made my coach take a poll at the PSA conference,” he said. “I had her ask coaches if I should cut my hair, and she came back with 30 tiny pieces of paper with either yes or no on them from the coaches. So, I was obviously nervous to open them, but I slowly began to read them. There were some that said ‘please cut’ and others that said ‘Don’t cut—it’s your trademark’. Once the last slip of paper was read, I looked at my tally sheet, and it was 15 – 15. I was so confused. My coach told me that it meant that it is up to me, but I don’t want to make people mad if I cut it, and what if I look awful with it short? What do I do then? I really don’t think that I will grow it out again if I cut it, so I still wonder what I should do every day. For now, I am keeping it the way it is.”
What do you think? Keep it or cut it?