Gabb: Hi everyone, this is Gabb (@tegomass) and Kite (@mossyzinc). We were in Toronto for the weekend and had the chance to interview Jason Brown, the 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist in the Team Event, the 2015 US Champion and the 2018 Four Continents Bronze Medalist.
Kite: First of all, your packaging this season, with the Short Program and the new haircut, is obviously quite a bit different from what we’ve seen in the past. [Jason: Yes.] Was this an intentional move on your part as you relocated your training base, or a result of the changes you’ve been making this season?
Jason: The hair part of the package was something that I was going to change no matter what. I kind of knew after the last four years, or the last quad, that I was, I need a change no matter what. So, I knew the hair was coming, but the program was definitely based off of last season, and not as like, but kind of a passive aggressive kind of play on the words that I’ve done - like my last two Long Programs have had ‘love’ in the title [The Scent of Love and Inner Love] and so then I did a Short Program that had ‘love’ in the title but it’s in more of an aggressive way. It’s kind of like a little jab at myself, but I just love it, and so that part of the packaging has made me feel more in power of owning that situation and playing off to that.
Kite: It’s definitely a very memorable program. [Gabb: Yeah, we really like it.] We’ve seen it live a few times. [Gabb: Twice, yeah, twice.]
Jason: I’m so glad you guys love it! [Gabb: We really did!] Thank you!
Kite: So, also you’ve been quite vocal on Twitter and social media about being involved in the Ronald McDonald House Charity.
Gabb: Yeah, we wanted to know how that came about?
Jason: Yeah, so after actually the 2014 Olympics, it was really when I started doing more of the Grand Prix’s and more of the bigger events so, and with that, more people go to these events and throw obviously, one of the traditions is that people throw stuffed animals or things on the ice to show their support. So often, I travel to all these different places in the world, and unfortunately we’re not always able to bring everything home with us and so I wanted to do something that I could feel the audience was showing their support, but then we could pay it forward, and I wanted to also find a way to do something that was global, that I could do no matter where I was in the world. We were looking at a bunch of different, whether it was children’s hospitals or we looked into the Red Cross, and The Ronald McDonald House was one of the places that really stood out to me that not only did it involve kids and their families but it was the more, as we started looking into it, it was everywhere. You know, I’ve gotten to go to the Ronald McDonald House in Finland, and Taiwan, and Korea, and Japan. I’ve been in Europe, I’ve been all over the US - so that part made it unique because people at those events could feel like it was going to their community. I love kids and I love getting to go. [Gabb: It always looks amazing when we see it on social media.] [Kite: I had no idea it was so global! That’s amazing.] Which, yes, it’s been so neat! And the cool thing about the Ronald McDonald House is the more I’ve been involved in it, the more people have come up to me with their stories about how their family has stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, or one of their relatives has or how much of an impact it’s had on their life, because it’s not something that’s as spoken about as I would’ve thought, but once I got involved, so many different people kept coming up to me.
Kite: That’s really amazing. [Jason: Thanks.] So kind of playing off more of your social media, [Jason: Yeah, please!] Your friendship with Evgenia Medvedeva is all over social media, it’s obviously so sweet to see.
Gabb: We love seeing pictures of you guys.
Kite: It makes our day when we see something like that. What is it like to be new to TCC [Toronto Cricket Club] and Toronto as elite skaters? Because you guys moved here around the same time.
Jason: Yes! It’s really been incredible. I think having, going through this with someone else has made the whole process, however you want to call it, so much sweeter or so much easier. We’re both coming here making so much change, so going through it and going through the ups and downs, adapting to a new environment, it’s been so nice to do it side-by-side with Evgenia. When she first moved here, I helped her get all settled with everything in Canada. At first, I was like in my head, “I hope she likes me!” [Kite and Gabb laugh] because if she is annoyed at me by the time she’s all settled and she’s like “Urgh, and then I’m with him every day...” When she first came here, her mom didn’t have a car, I was driving them everywhere. We were going to practices together, and I was just like “Please like me” because if we’ve spent all this time together and she’s just like “Urgh,” but luckily we’ve really become close friends and I love her so much, and it’s been amazing just to see the growth this season as she’s kind of had to break down some barriers and start building them back up.
Kite: Were you guys acquainted before?
Jason: We’ve known each other via competition, but that being said, no. We’ve talked and we’d take pictures at competitions, a little bit of Instagram DMs [direct messages] back and forth of just support after seeing each other. But that being said, it was really once Evgenia kind of made, or Evgenia and Brian, made her coaching change public, I wrote her because we were both moving, and I was like “Hey, do you need anything? I’m moving like three weeks before you,” and then we starting talking much more, but it’s just progressed from there.
Kite: You guys are going to go to Worlds together!
Jason: Yes! I am so excited!
Kite: Well, the best of luck to you both! On the flip side of being new to Toronto, what has been the hardest part of relocating your whole training base and moving to a new rink?
Jason: I think, the hardest part really was at the beginning. I think, creating new habits was very difficult. Something I think was so incredible with this coaching team was that they have been extremely patient, and extremely understanding. They’ve gone through it with so many people, coming into their training camp new and having to relearn certain technique and understanding that. During the summer, making so much change, I kind of felt like I got to this point where I was in no-man’s land. Like I wasn’t doing my technique - the technique I was doing before - correctly, and I wasn’t doing theirs. All my jumps were messed up, I couldn’t land anything, and there were just moments of like “What is happening?” [Kite and Gabb laugh.] I couldn’t land triple loops, it took me like a good four weeks to start landing triple Axel’s again. When I came to Toronto, the first week, I was doing triple Axels, and then as we made all these changes, it took four weeks before I got it back! I was just like “Oh my God, what are they thinking of me?” So I think that and staying true to not going back to old habits. A funny story I like to talk about, I remember calling my best friend and being like “I don’t know, I just want to go back to some of my old habits for a day or two to feel good about myself again,” and she was like “You did not move to Canada to go back to old habits!” It was so funny.
Kite: That’s a good friend.
Gabb: Yeah, that’s a really good friend.
Jason: A really good friend. [Gabb: Good pep talk.] Yeah, yeah, exactly. But, I stuck with it, and that part’s gotten easier. The timing of moving was kind of right for me, and I felt like I moved at a right time. I was happy with that and I love Toronto, but that technical change has been the most difficult, and still something I’m… I feel like I’ve gotten it with the previous jumps, but moving forward with some of the other jumps that I’m working on that I haven't quite reached yet.
Kite: I mean, sometimes in competition especially if you’re relearning your technique, it can be easy to revert back to old habits if you’re nervous or under pressure. Is that something that takes over?
Jason: Absolutely. I had a really, I don’t want to call it a really tough start to the season, but I had a lot of those feelings where I felt like I was seven steps ahead in practice than where I was when I would compete. I would get to competition and I would have no idea what I was doing and I couldn’t rely on anything, because like you said, you go back to what you know in general in situations, and I would - I don’t want to say completely fall apart - but that feeling of “What is happening?” But that gap has gotten smaller and smaller as the year has gone on, but I do laugh because at the beginning of the season I was like “I don’t want to compete that much, I don’t want so many events,” because we were making so much change. And then as I was competing, I was like “Oh my God, the only way that I can figure this out is if I keep competing. I need more events, I need more events.”
Kite: It’s been so amazing to see the progress you have made, even in the past half season.
Gabb: We’re really excited for Worlds. You’re going to Japan, [Jason: Yes.] and we know you like to study Japanese, we wanted to know how that started, and how that’s progressing?
Jason: My first Junior Grand Prix year [2010-2011] I went to a Junior Grand Prix in Japan, and I just fell in love with the culture and the people, and what I think was so amazing was, where we were at least, they didn’t speak English. So the communication barrier is obviously there. It was kind of, for me, one of the first times travelling internationally where you were in another country where they weren’t speaking - it sounds so horrible, because coming from the US and with English, it’s so universal, which I think is something we take too much advantage of and I think it was something for me felt so special being in another country where there was that language barrier because you really felt like “Oh my gosh, to communicate I really want to learn their language.” And so that’s where it really started, and then I started of just teaching myself some words, and then I did take a few classes and then work with some tutors, just studying here and there when I can. But I love it, I hope to teach English in Japan one year. My goal is fluent before 40, so.. [Laughs] We’ll see.
Gabb: Well, good luck with that! You seem to be doing well.
Jason: Thank you.
Kite: And then moving a bit into this season, you had a bit of a costume mishap at US Nationals. [Jason: Yes. Yes.] Could you maybe talk more about that? How everyone really came together to get your costumes back. [Gabb: You had so many people helping you.]
Jason: Absolutely. It was crazy. I was starting to pack for US Championships on Tuesday, like the Tuesday before us leaving. I go into my closet and my costumes aren’t there, and I was like “Well, this is strange,” but at the same time, my room is not that big. They only would be in my closet, they’re not like somewhere else lying around. I started to think like where they could be, what could I do, and out of nowhere I was like “Oh my gosh, I left them in Croatia, I left them at my last event!’ [Golden Spin of Zagreb 2018.] We finished a day early competing in Croatia, so I honestly think I just hung them back up in the closet in the hotel room, instead of packing them up right away, and then packed everything up and left. But I brought my exhibition costume home, the one that I did the next day. But it was… I was like “Oh my God, oh my God.” I came in that day and I was like “Tracy, I need to like get this off my mind because I feel so bad but I won’t be able to focus unless I come clean. I don’t have my costumes,” and she was like “Oh, it’s okay!” She was so chill about it, which made me feel better. She was like “We’ll figure something out!” I was like “My mom’s on it, we are working hard on it,” and basically, we first went through US Figure Skating to get all right contacts from the event and the hotel from the Senior B in Croatia, we tracked down the costumes; they were with house-keeping, which was crazy that they had them and they had kept them for months, and then, it all started. We went to FedEx, and my costumes went from like Croatia - now I don’t even remember, but Croatia, to another country, to Paris, to Tennessee, to Michigan. It was all these different ways of getting it, so many different people that we were close to were starting to use all their different connections on how to get it. So, US Figure Skating’s people were doing it from their FedEx people, and my dad’s business was to get it from there, and my cousin works for Universal so Universal was trying to track it down with their FedEx people. It landed in Michigan and my parents drove to pick it up, and they had it back after my 20-minute warm-up, and before my 6 minute warm-up for the Short Program.
Gabb: That’s amazing!
Kite: That is a saga.
Gabb: Did you have a backup costume at all?
Jason: I did! That being said it was more of like a turtleneck - skating pants and kind of a tight turtleneck for the short. And for the long, I just had an exhibition costume that I’d worn before that we were like “Okay, that’s what we’re going to do.” We had backups just in case but [I was] shocked that I didn’t need to use them.
Gabb: I’m glad it all worked out.
Jason: Me too. It’s a good story.
Kite: It’s funny to look back on, I’m sure.
Jason: Exactly. The fact that I left my costumes in Croatia and six weeks later realized. Like, had no idea, didn’t even while I was unpacking, didn’t think about it.
Kite: Do you think it affected your focus at all, going into Nationals?
Jason: No. I think at the beginning, it kind of freaked me out, just because I didn’t know what I was going to wear. But once I kind of had an outfit and practiced in something different, I felt more relaxed. It really wasn’t until I had a backup that I started to relax. And Tracy being so calm about the whole situation. [Kite: They’ve probably seen it before.] [Everyone Laughs] Yeah, they were like “Oh my God we’ve been through this with Javi, [Javier Fernández] [Kite and Gabb laugh.] Um, Jason, this is nothing,” and I was like “Okay.”
Kite: And, if you could relive one moment of your career so far, what would you pick?
Jason: So relive if it’s the same? [Laughs]
Gabb: Yeah, you can change it. Whatever you want.
Jason: I would say, if I could relive one moment… that’s a really great question. It would probably be either, kind of like reliving 2014 Nationals. I don’t think I really understood what was going on at the time, so to relive it and kind of… well I guess technically what makes it so special is that you don’t really understand what’s going on, but kind of embrace it more and really realize what I did, I think that would be cool. But something that was so meaningful to me was that World Team Trophy in 2015 and I finished skating and all the skaters from all the different countries came to the kiss and cry area and that was just really, really special to me and it meant a lot. I was just mind blown that they all came down to cheer me on.
Kite: That’s really nice, that they came to support you. And I guess to wrap up, something that’s really unique about your skating is that you’re quite flexible, and you do show off this flexibility a lot in your programs, which is awesome, obviously. How did that become such an integral part of your style and do you have any tips for other skaters to improve their flexibility?
Jason: Kind of a funny story, but I wasn’t flexible at all when I was younger - like couldn’t touch my toes, couldn’t do the splits, like anything. And I was at Junior Nationals when I was a Juvenile in the US and I didn’t qualify for the final round, but I was sitting in the stands with coach Kori [Ade] watching the Juvenile Men’s final, and Joshua Farris, who ended up winning that year  did a Charlotte [Spiral] and a Biellmann [Spin] and Kori was like “If you want to win Juvenile Nationals, and be good for the following year, then you have to work on your flexibility, like look at this, look how amazing this is.” And, I was like “Okay, okay!” So, that’s really where it began, and every night I would stretch, and I think that’s kind of where it started. I wasn’t someone who over-stretched as far as would push my body further than it could go, but with stretching, it’s something that has taken time, but just every single night I would stretch a little more, and every single night just keep working on it and working on it throughout the years, and it’s fortunately paid off and I’ve been able to use it. But I laughed about it with Josh because as he grew, he was like “I’m not flexible” and we would laugh about it because I’m literally flexible just because of you, and he’d be like “Oh my Gosh.’ So we laugh about it because he’s so flexible as a kid, but yeah, that’s where it began. Cause if I wanted to win Juvenile, I needed to be flexible.
Gabb: I think that’s about it.
Kite: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. [Jason: Of course! Anytime.] I know you’re really busy with training, so we really appreciate it.
Gabb:: We wish you the best of luck for Worlds.
Kite: We can’t wait to watch you!
Jason: Thank you guys!
Kite: So, thank you everyone for listening. We’d especially like to thank Jason Brown for taking time out of his very busy schedule to sit down and talk to us, and we do have another interview coming out so keep an eye out for that. If you want more figure skating coverage, please head over to our website, inthelopodcast.com for all of your figure skating needs. Thanks and see you soon.