Jason Brown left Tuesday for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, feeling confident and surprisingly relaxed.
"I'm just relieved finals are over," said Brown, a junior at Highland Park High School. "Now I'm excited for nationals, to go out there and see what happens."
U.S. nationals are Jan. 22-29; the championship-level skaters perform Thursday-Sunday.
Short dance: 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Free dance, 2 p.m. Saturday.
Short program: 6 p.m. Thursday.
Free skate: 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Short program: 9 p.m. Friday.
Free skate: 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Short program: 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
Free skate: 6 p.m. Saturday.
TV schedule (NBC)
Saturday, Jan. 28
3-5 p.m. Free dance.
8-10 p.m. Ladies free skate.
Sunday, Jan. 29
2-5 p.m. Men's and pairs' free skate.
*Times are CST.
The country's top skating competition, which every four years determines the Olympic team, opened Sunday and builds toward this weekend's finals in ladies, men's, pairs and ice dancing competitions.
Brown trains at rinks in Highland Park, Northbrook and in Buffalo Grove, and on Saturday spent nearly three hours at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove, polishing his short and freestyle programs in preparation for nationals.
"My main focus is to stay focused and deliver two great programs," he says.
Brown is coming off a Junior Grand Prix circuit where he won the gold medal last month in Quebec and is the top-rated junior skater in the world. Beat reporters covering the sport call him, "the future of figure skating."
In fact, he has medaled at every level, says his coach, Kori Ade of Northbrook, including the juvenile, intermediate and novice levels, and last year he placed in the top 10 during his first senior level competition at nationals.
"I'd be very pleased if he places at or above where he finished last year at nationals," Ade says of Brown's ninth place finish. "The field of men is tough. There are a lot of U.S. men skating right now at a very high level. Jason will have to step up and do everything he can do."
He has in his arsenal every triple jump, except the triple Axel, and even a triple jump combination, which earns bonus points in the new scoring system.
"Everything he does, he does well," Ade says, "and that means he scores a lot of points."
Landing the many triple jumps scores points, she says, but their value increases if they are done well. The same goes for other components in the programs, including spins, footwork and transitions, all of which Brown does well.
But his biggest strength going into the high-level competition, she adds, is his work ethic and attention to detail.
"He's a consistent competitor, but he's also consistent in practice," she says. "He has this sense of precision that has led to his good jumping technique.
"The hours and hours of practicing," she adds, "have allowed him to develop that consistency in competition."
That consistency helped him deliver a clean and polished program at the Grand Prix finals, when others fell, and he hopes to follow it up this week at nationals.
Still, both he and his coach acknowledge that without the triple Axel in his routines, he won't earn enough points to medal. But that's OK, they say, as they cautiously hope he builds momentum in the senior men's division leading up to 2014, when they select the Olympic team.