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From the Summit: Brown 'livid' about quad troubles

Nagasu hints at possibility of adding second triple axel; Shibs confident
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Jason Brown is hopeful that his 'Hamilton' short program is the vehicle that allows his to land his first clean quad in competition. -Getty Images

PARK CITY, UTAH - The question follows Jason Brown around like his shadow.

"When are you going to land a clean quad?"

Dating back to the 2014-15 season, the 2015 U.S. champion has attempted 13 quads in competition -- and failed to land any of them with a positive Grade of Execution.

It's not for lack of trying.

"I have weeks where I don't go one without missing it -- toes are there, sals are there -- and then I have weeks where there are these little glitches," said Brown, who is in Park City, Utah, attending the 2017 Team USA Media Summit along with several other Olympic skating hopefuls. "Right now, we're trying to find that perfect balance to get it to where it feels like it does during those weeks when I'm hitting it non-stop. That's the biggest thing I have to tackle in the next five months."

At the Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy, last week, he attempted one in the short and fell on it. He did not try one in the free skate.

For Brown, what he does on the practice ice just hasn't seemed to translate to competition.

"I'm definitely the type of person who competes the way they train," said Brown, whose next chance to perform a quad successfully will be at Skate Canada in late October. "If I have a week where I'm nailing them all, I have that confidence that I will nail it in the competition. Unfortunately, I haven't had as much success in the weeks of competition as I would like."

Brown is known to those in the skating world as a happy-go-lucky character, someone who seemingly never has a bad day. But underneath that eternally optimistic exterior lies a person who is confounded as to why he cannot get over this one particular hurdle.

"I'm livid," Brown said. "Behind this (gestures to himself smiling), it is so irritating to me. It's very frustrating because I put so much time into this and I work so hard, and it's something that I know I can do."

This is not the first time Brown has famously struggled to learn a difficult jump.

"Growing up, it was, 'What could Jason do if he had a triple axel?' I got the triple axel, and I think I've gone above and beyond what anyone thought was possible," Brown said. "I went to worlds this year and got a 93 (in the short program) with just a triple axel. I don't know if that's been done before.

"I'm definitely very frustrated, but I'm determined this year to figure out how to do it and how to get it."

Despite his troubles with the four-revolution jump, Brown has found great success both at home and internationally. He knows what kind of skater he is, and he (and his coaches) smartly play to his strengths.

"I think I do the jumps that I do better than anyone in the world," Brown said. "I think there's a reason I'm always able to keep up with the sport that's constantly growing technically."

And if he gets that quad, he will be more than keeping up with the sport -- he will be one of the figures leading it.

Skaters react to possible ISU changes

The recent report that the International Skating Union was considering lowering the base values for certain jumps (quads, in particular) and pairs elements, as well as replacing the short program and free skate with an athletic and artistic program has the skating world abuzz. But what do the skaters themselves think about these possible changes?

Their reactions were mixed.

"It's not my decision. If that's what they think is in the best interest of evolving figure skating, that will be what it is," said Nathan Chen, who may stand to lose the most of any skater at this Media Summit if these adjustments are implemented. "We're all very flexible; we can all adapt to whatever system is thrown at us. My plans will definitely change, but it won't be the end of the world for us."

The ISU is said to be considering these overhauls because of the widening gulf between the technical elements score and the program components mark, particularly in the men's discipline.

One skater who could benefit greatly from the ISU putting these proposals on the table is Adam Rippon.

"In the past, the free skate was always considered to be the program where the artistic score would win, and now even a skater like me, who isn't doing five quads, my technical score is still higher than my program components score," Rippon said. "So I think they're trying to find a balance between the technical push and (wanting) to keep skating a performance sport."

If the competition format does get restructured, and a platform is created on which skaters can showcase their artistry, it could convince certain athletes to prolong their careers.

"It gives someone like me, who's 28, more incentive to keep going," Rippon said.

One change that is definitely happening (although not until the 2018-19 season) is the increase in the range of Grades of Execution from a seven-point scale (+3 to -3) to an 11-point scale (+5 to -5).

Rippon is strongly in favor of this.

"I think sometimes that an element that is a +3, which is regarded as perfect, and an element that gets a +2, sometimes there's a big difference there," he said.

While the skaters may feel differently about these possible modifications, they all agree on one thing: With the sport's waning popularity everywhere outside Asia, something has to be done to recapture the public's interest.

"Times they are a-changing. They're always changing," Mirai Nagasu said. "You can't get caught up in being part of the past."

More triple axels in Nagasu's future?

Nagasu is certainly not one to get caught up in the past; in fact, she's trying to move the sport forward as best she can.

The 24-year-old caused quite a stir a couple of weeks ago, when she landed two triple axels, one in each program, at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City, just down the road from where she is this week. It's a jump, she says, she's trained since she was 13 years old, but for one reason or another, she never worked on it consistently until recently.

"This year I was really able to get a feel for it," Nagasu told a room full of reporters at a press conference Monday. "When I started to land it, it was very satisfying. I could always visualize myself doing the jump; it was just getting my muscles to react as fast as they needed to. Now, in practice, it's a very consistent jump for me."

As if one triple axel weren't enough, Nagasu even hinted at upping the ante somewhere down the line.

"Who knows, I might throw in two," the 2010 Olympian said. "My triple-triple is not my favorite jump, but it's a point-getter, so maybe I'll go for two axels, put one triple toe combo in instead of the two. The possibilities are endless with another triple in my arsenal."

No triple axels in Wagner's future

While Nagasu talks about possibly doubling down on the triple axel, Wagner wants no part of the jump. Here's an exchange she had with a reporter during her media breakout session.

Reporter: "Have you ever tried a triple axel, even just for fun?"

Wagner: "Oh yeah, absolutely. They're fun. They're terrifying."

Reporter: "What was the outcome?"

Wagner: "Not good. That's why I'm not competing it. Axel is not my strongest jump. I would rather try quad loop than triple axel. I go into double axels and I pray. I don't need to be trying triple axel."

Shibutanis blocking out the noise

Coming into this season, there are some who feel that the race for the U.S. title in ice dance is as wide open as it's been in a long time, with no clear-cut favorite. Certain results from last season back up that up belief.

While Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won their second consecutive national championship in 2017, they finished just second in the free dance at the U.S. championships to Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Then, at the world championships in Helsinki, the Shibutanis found themselves in fifth place after the short -- behind both Chock and Bates and fellow Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue -- before rallying in the free dance to earn the bronze.

Are those signs that the Shibutanis are more vulnerable to be knocked off this season?

If you ask them, the answer is an unequivocal "no."

"We had great results (last season)," Alex Shibutani said. "We won both of our Grand Prix. We medaled at the Grand Prix Final. We came in second at the Four Continents Championships. We won our second U.S. title. We were the only U.S. skaters to medal at the world championships. We've been Mr. and Mrs. 'Deliver Consistently.' We feel really good about where we're at."

Another reason to believe the gap between the Shibutanis and the other U.S. teams could be narrowed is this season's short dance and its required Latin American rhythms. The prevailing thought is that the brother-and-sister team will find it hard to exude the same passion as someone like a Chock and Bates or a Hubbell and Donohue, who have been known to steam up the ice from time to time.

The Shibutanis, though, are having none of it.

"People are like, 'Are you aware of what other people are saying?' Yeah, we're aware. We're pretty good at social media. We know what's going on. We know what people are writing about; we know what people are saying," Alex Shibutani said. "It's not something we concern ourselves with. It's negative energy that we don't need."