Ice Network

Consistency key to Brown's success in Shanghai

Coach Ade says skater has been doing clean run-throughs almost at will
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Jason Brown and his coaching team are hoping some reworked choreography in the skater's programs pays big dividends at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships. -Getty Images

No, Jason Brown will not do his quadruple toe loop at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai this week.

The consistency level isn't there yet, and it just isn't his focus.

"My goals are to skate two great programs and to help (retain) the third (U.S. men's) spot for the 2016 worlds in Boston," Brown, 20, told quad-centric reporters during his media call last week. "That's where my mindset is right now."

Here's what Brown plans to do: perform season-best routines, including newly retooled triple Axels, and show increased speed and what longtime coach Kori Ade called "amped-up" choreography, courtesy of Rohene Ward.

"Rohene has reworked a lot of the choreography sections so [the Tristan and Isolde free skate] looks very sophisticated, really fluid," Ade said. "Jason told us back at Champs Camp (in August 2014) his big goal was to peak at worlds, and Rohene and I worked together to make that happen.

"I tweaked some things in the short (set to Little Walter's "Juke"), and we both just looked at the programs and said, 'How can we amp it up just one more notch in the volume, so they look amazing, better than they've looked all season?'"

Nothing sets off great choreography like consistency, so Ade and Ward drilled the nuances -- as well as the elements -- into their pupil during practice sessions at their training center in Monument, Colorado.

"Rohene is a drill sergeant; he loves, loves, loves hitting that replay button, doing section after section," Brown said. "He pushes you to your limits and he brings that choreography side so it's not just, 'He landed the jump;' it's, 'How well did he land that jump, in the choreography?' He will know if you missed one step in your footwork, one hand movement."

In the month leading up to the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Ade challenged Brown to perform 40 clean programs in his practices; he did 43. That consistency led him to his first U.S. title.

After subtracting time for travel, Brown's longtime coach set a similar goal for the three weeks or so between the 2015 Four Continents Championships in Seoul and the world championships: hit 30 clean routines, short program or free skate.

"He has already done about 40 clean programs," Ade said three days before she and Brown left for Shanghai. "And clean for Jason doesn't just mean he didn't turn out of a jump. If it's not a positive GOE (Grade of Execution), he doesn't consider it clean."

According to Ade, the jump that might be considered Brown's Achilles' heel -- the triple Axel -- is the best it's ever been. At each of his five competitions this season, Brown has had a deduction on a least one of the three triple Axels in his short program and free skate.

After Four Continents last month, where an under-rotated triple Axel in the short cost Brown points and contributed to a sixth-place finish, Ade took action.

"I actually changed his pattern (leading into the triple Axel)," she said. "That was something I planned to do six months ago. I wanted to do it after nationals, and then we decided to do the quad at Four Continents, so it had to wait."

Instead of a relatively long lead-in, Brown now does the jump out of several turns.

"It leads to, I think, more consistent timing and more consistent pattern and less of a gray area," Ade said. "I was tired of watching him telegraph, and hold that edge and wait for it. I gave him much more of a built-in rhythm that essentially says, 'This is when you jump,' as opposed to jump when you feel like jumping."

"It's made a huge difference in the triple Axel's consistency," she added. "It's beautiful and solid as a rock right now."

When Brown tried the quad toe in his short at Four Continents, he two-footed the landing, and the jump was downgraded by the technical panel. Still, Ade thinks the attempt will pay dividends next season.

"There is always a first (attempt), and he needed to go through the emotional experience because when you get to this level, you don't have a lot of experience doing jumps for the first time anymore," she said. "(Next season) I didn't want him to say, 'Oh, I never tried it, so I don't know what it's like.' I wanted him to say, 'I tried it, I know what it is like, [and] I managed the rest of the program just fine.'"

Brown, who began training under Ade at age 5, believes his coach's strategy -- along with the intense focus on clean, consistent programs -- has prepared him to stack up well against favorites Yuzuru Hanyu, Denis Ten and Javier Fernández, despite the lack of a quad.

"I definitely do think I have what it takes to be competitive against these guys," he said. "Every year I compete stronger; every year I compete more confident with what I have. ... My goal is to continue to put up scores that are better than those of some guys who do the quad."