Vintage Jason Brown, known for his performance abilities, was on full display during his performance at the Capital Indoor Stadium on Thursday. Brown was coming off a personal best in the short program (97.24) and was sixth in the standings. It’s worth revisiting Brown's beautiful free skate routine and breaking down how he managed to score so well without performing a quad.
The 27-year-old made a statement without winning a medal. Brown’s free skate performance was always likely to fall short of the podium without a quad. However, what keeps Brown competitive in the “age of the quad”, without performing one, is his artistry.
For those not well-versed in figure skating scoring, skaters receive two categories worth of points, technical and component. Their technical and component scores add together to form their overall score.
To understand how impressive Brown’s sixth-place finish is, it’s important to break down how he scored in the technical category. Each element of the program is assigned a base value, which gives skaters credit for every element they perform. The harder the element, the higher the base value, which is why including quads in your performance is crucial for being competitive. Judges then grade the quality of those elements using a grade of execution score on a scale of -5 to +5, which is added or deducted from the base value for an element. The sum of the scores for all elements forms the technical score.
For skaters like Nathan Chen and Yuma Kagiyama, their technical scores start with higher base values because of their ability to perform quads. For someone like Brown, he must perfect the execution of easier elements at a near-perfect level to attempt to score the same amount of points.
Johnny Weir summarized it best, “he scored 20.5 points in grade of execution… that’s like doing two quads, so even though there was no quad, there was a ghost quad.”
For the component aspect of the score, judges look at five categories: skating skills, transitions, performance, composition and interpretation of music. For an artistic skater like Brown, it’s expected he will receive high points in this category. On Thursday, he didn’t disappoint. Brown finished with the second-highest program component score. Chen was the only athlete to earn a higher program component score.
In a sport where routines are changing, and favoring, more powerful elements over artistry, Brown’s routine proved there’s still a place for skaters like him. The 27-year-old again earned a personal best in his free skate with a score of 184.00. He finished the competition with a combined score of 281.24 and in sixth overall. It was an improvement on his ninth-place finish at his last Olympics in 2014, after not making the team in 2018.
His passion and love for the sport was evident in both of his performances. "It's hard to put into words, but for me I just love this sport so much and I've given so much time and effort," he said after his performance. "To be able to culminate all of that [work] in this Olympic experience, I'm just so, so proud."
Just being at the Olympics in his late 20s was a statement for a sport that favors teenagers. He proved a performance based on art still does belong in the men’s competition. While he may leave Beijing without a medal, Tara Lipinski summed up Brown's legacy, “he will be one of figure skating greatest artists.”