As recently as last week, 15-year-old figure skater Jason Brown had to fight his way through a back injury, to put his best foot forward this week at the U.S. Figure Skating Association championships in Spokane.
At one of his last training sessions at the North Shore Ice Arena in Glenview, Brown fell several times while attempting to land his triple Lutz triple toe combination. However, his coach, Kori Ade, who has coached him since he was 5, reassured him.
"Think of it as a bank account," she told him. "You've made so many deposits in the account, that you don't have to dip into it all at once. Your investment will be there the next time you need it."
It was. At this week's junior men's competition - the last level before seniors - Brown won the gold medal.
For Brown, who trains at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove on weekends, while training in Glenview during the week, it reaffirmed all of his hard work and trust in his longtime coach.
"I did what I've been practicing, and just took it one step at a time," said Brown, in a phone interview from the Spokane Ice Arena.
When pressed, he pointed to his high component score, which takes into account his style and artistry, as well as landing some of his key elements.
"I landed my triple combination," said Brown, a freshman at Highland Park High School. "That helped."
Ade was thrilled to see her student of 10 years win gold. She said he came into the competition with the highest score from sectionals, but he still had to deliver under the pressure of nationals.
"He's got the total package, with artistry, jumps and spins," Ade said. "Now all we have to do is build up his power and speed."
Two of Brown's training mates also fared well at nationals. Danny O'Shea of Gurnee and Jessica Calalang of Glenview placed fifth in pairs in the novice division, after skating together for less than a year.
"We made the top five," O'Shea said. "We're feeling pretty wonderful right now."
Both are top singles skaters, who brought their strong jumping ability to their partnership, but they admitted they needed to work more on some of the pairs elements to advance their standings.
"We both landed our side-by-side triple Salchow, so that was huge," O'Shea said. "That was the element that we thought would put us on the map, and it did."
They are hoping to be selected for the U.S. Figure Skating Association's developmental international team, eligible to compete this summer in Canada.
"We still have a lot of work to do, polishing things like our lifts, twists and throws," O'Shea added. "If we can strengthen those, we'll be a strong pair."