Ice Network

Brown clinches men's gold at Nebelhorn Trophy

U.S. silver medalist wins first senior international title in Oberstdorf
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Jason Brown took home gold at the Nebelhorn Trophy after tallying 237.17 points in Oberstdorf , Germany. -Wendy Enzmann

Jason Brown won his first career senior international title, defeating Michal Brezina by 7.65 points at the Nebelhorn Trophy on Friday in Oberstdorf, Germany.

The U.S. silver medalist, second at this event last season, stepped up to gold with a winning free skate choreographed by Rohene Ward to Maxim Rodriguez's "Tristan and Isolde."

What Brown lacked -- a quadruple jump -- he made up for with musicality, flexible spin positions and exceptionally musical steps.

His program component scores, which ranged up to 9.5, were at least 10 points higher than those of any other skater. This was fortunate, because four of his jumps -- including both triple Axels -- were deemed under-rotated by the technical panel. On the positive side, his three outstanding spins all gained Level 4 and his steps were rated Level 3. He earned 153.58 points for his free and finished with 237.17 points total.

"I was definitely excited to do my first international competition after the Olympics," said Brown, who was ninth at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. "I was conservative and focused on the elements. I was excited that I could show everything."

The 19-year-old skater, who trains in Monument, Colorado, under Kori Ade, credited Ward with helping him gain such high program component scores.

"I love playing characters and having a theme (in my programs), and Rohene knows this," Brown said. "When he played ["Tristan and Isolde"] for me, I fell in love with the music right away. I like being theatrical and powerful, and this is why we went in this direction. If I feel the music when I skate. The public likes it as well."

Brezina, who trains full-time in Oberstdorf, had one of his finest performances in recent seasons to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro." He explained how he had come to select this classical piece.

"When I left New Jersey (and former coach Viktor Petrenko) to return to train in Oberstdorf this spring, my coach Karel Fajfr played the music for me and said, 'You have to take it, you have no other choice,'" Brezina said. "So I took this music and grew to love it very much."       

The 24-year-old Czech opened with a good triple Axel followed by a triple toe, which is planned to become a quadruple later in the season. The next element was a solid quad Salchow-double toe combination. Although he fell on his second quad Salchow and singled an intended triple loop, he landed three other triples and won silver with 228.48 points.

"I feel pretty good. My performance at the beginning of the season was not 100 percent, but 100 percent better than last year," Brezina said. "I can build on this and prepare for the rest of the season. Mr. Fajfr asks me to do much more run-throughs than I did before, and I need that."

Konstantin Menshov of Russia placed third in the free and won the bronze medal with 211.03 points. The 30-year-old Russian opened his program with a quad toe-triple toe combination, and followed up with six more triples, not all of which were clean.

Menshov's unusual music, "Tango in Silencio" by Lebanese violinist Ara Malikian, was punctured by screaming and gunshots.

"My choreographer (Olga Glinka) and I chose this music because it reflects the world of today," Menshov said. "Things are not stable. Many people, even babies and journalists, are killed in wars. But mankind has to, and will, survive."

Menshov's countryman, Sergei Voronov, ended up fourth with 210.05 points, just a point behind Menshov. Voronov opened his free skate with a quad toe loop but doubled his first intended triple Axel. Although he landed five other triples, his spins did not gain good levels.

Canadian Elladj Baldé placed fifth after an intense program to flamenco music. He elected not to try his quad toe loop, which he landed at Skate Detroit this summer, because it was not working in practice. He also fell on his first triple Axel and singled his second attempt.

Alexander Johnson, who trains in Colorado Springs under Tom Dickson, skated an expressive, lyrical program to selections from Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, but five of his triples were judged under rotated by the technical panel. He finished sixth with 191.41 points.

This was Johnson's first international event since he won silver at the 2013 International Challenge Cup. He missed last season with an ankle injury.

"I was very committed to my performance today," he said. "As for the technical aspect, it was quite shaky. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement. It will come when I gain more confidence and have done several competitions."