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updated: 1/29/2014 3:10 PM

Friends send off Buffalo Grove-trained Olympians

Friends send off Buffalo Grove-trained Olympians

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  • Rudi Baruch of Buffalo Grove signs cards for Olympians Gracie Gold and Jason Brown at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove.

       Rudi Baruch of Buffalo Grove signs cards for Olympians Gracie Gold and Jason Brown at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Skaters sign cards for Gracie Gold and Jason Brown, which the Olympians will get before they pack up for Sochi.

       Skaters sign cards for Gracie Gold and Jason Brown, which the Olympians will get before they pack up for Sochi.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Novice pairs skaters Lindsay Weinstein of Buffalo Grove and Jacob Simon of Highland Park skate practice at Twin Rinks.

       Novice pairs skaters Lindsay Weinstein of Buffalo Grove and Jacob Simon of Highland Park skate practice at Twin Rinks.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, is moving up in the junior ladies circuit and considers Gracie Gold an inspiration.

       Bradie Tennell of Carpentersville, is moving up in the junior ladies circuit and considers Gracie Gold an inspiration.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 

Ponytail Power!

That was the heading on a poster signed by figure skaters at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove, when they wrote to local Olympian Jason Brown who will compete in Sochi next week -- with his trademark pony tail in tow.

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The 19-year-old from Highland Park has been drawing worldwide attention for his dramatic performance at the U.S. Figure Skating championships on Jan. 12, with more than 3 million people viewing his performance on YouTube.

But local skaters who train in Buffalo Grove know him first hand. They shared the ice with Brown during practice sessions and competed against him -- consequently, their admiration goes beyond his ponytail. He's one of us, they said.

Victor Shi, 11, of Buffalo Grove, points proudly to a photo of him taken with Brown four years ago. Even then, Victor said, he knew Brown would be famous one day.

"He just connects with the crowd when he skates," Victor said. "I wish I could do that and have his artistry."

Brown's coach, Kori Ade, has been with him since he was 5, and they have remained committed to training in the suburbs.

"It's been very important in Jason's life that he stay in school and live a normal life," Ade said. "So we trained where we could find good ice time, and Twin Rinks always had a lot of high level sessions available."

Jacob Simon, 16, of Highland Park, shared much of that ice time with Brown. He said he will be watching for some of Brown's signature moves during his Olympic competition, including his split jump and difficult entry into his triple axel combinations.

"He just loves to perform and his choreography is always top notch," Jacob said. "He's trained for so long and worked so hard, it's just awesome to see him achieve this kind of success."

Skaters also signed a poster for U.S. champion Gracie Gold, who lived in Elk Grove Village while she trained at four local rinks -- Twin Rinks, Centre Ice Arena in Glen Ellyn, Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills and the Northbrook Sports Center.

At Twin Rinks, she met every month with her choreographer, Scott Brown, before leaving in September for California and famed figure skating coach, Frank Caroll.

"Gracie will always remain connected to the wonderful skating community in the Chicagoland area," said Brown, who has since moved up to be her secondary coach. "She has had the support of so many wonderful people."

Count the young skaters at Twin Rinks among them. Many of them wrote to her on the poster, saying, "You're an inspiration to me."

"Just seeing how much progress she's made during her years here, is an inspiration," said Bradie Tennell, 15, of Carpentersville, who placed fourth among junior ladies at nationals.

Rachel Chang, 18, of Vernon Hills, figures she has been competing against Gold since they were children.

"She's always been really talented," Chang said. "But the difference is that she's totally devoted herself to skating. Just seeing her succeed, makes it definitely possible for other skaters here."

Lindsay Weinstein, 13, of Buffalo Grove, hopes to be one of them. She and her pairs partner, Simon, qualified for nationals earlier this month, where they placed fourth among novice pairs.

"I remember watching Gracie on the ice when I started skating," Lindsay said. "I used to stand at the wall and just watch her jump."

Now, Lindsay and the other up and coming skaters will be watching Gold and Brown doing those same jumps on a much larger stage, at the Olympics.

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