Olympic figure skater Jason Brown made waves during the 2014 Games, not just for his skill, but for his personality and style. Meet his parents and you'll soon realize -- it runs in the family.
The Browns said they didn't realize right away their young skater from Highland Park would go on to make Olympic history in the sport.
“When we watched him skate (at Nationals in 2014), I remember turning to Marla and saying, ‘He did it. He skated the skate,’” said Jason’s dad Steve Brown, through tears.
“This was four years ago, and we’re still crying,” said mom Marla Brown.
The Browns can’t help but get emotional recounting their son’s incredible journey to the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014. They said Jason, then 19, wasn’t expected to be on the team, so making it and then winning an Olympic bronze medal was surreal.
At the time, Jason was the youngest male figure skater to represent the U.S. at the Olympics since 1976.
“People saw this joy and passion coming from this kid and, you know, it was really a moment,” said Marla Brown.
Jason first hit the ice by following his older sister to skating lessons at the park district in Highland Park. His first coach, Kori Ade, still coaches him today.
“The goal was never the Olympics when he was little. This was just something he loved to do,” his parents said.
But by about 7th or 8th grade, according to Steve Brown, his parents knew Jason was on a competitive track. Each morning before school, Jason would wake up early to skate, then return to the rink after class. His weekends were filled with local regional competitions.
“He once went to a competition in Iowa, and he won it. Someone said, ‘Oh, did you have a big party when he came home?’ No, we bought him a big, fat pencil at the gas station, and he came home and did his homework,” Marla Brown said.
Jason graduated from Highland Park High School in 2013.
His parents said they made sure that Jason’s skating was not more important than the extracurricular activities of his two siblings.
“Skating did not take place over soccer or basketball or school plays or cross-country meets. It was another event,” Steve said.
Since Sochi, Jason, now 23, has moved to train full-time in Colorado Springs. He followed up his Olympic bronze team medal with a gold medal at the 2015 U.S. Nationals. But then injuries hit, forcing Jason to sit out national championships in 2016.
Today, Jason is training to earn one of three U.S. men’s spots on the 2018 Olympic team. The team will be announced shortly after Nationals on Jan. 7.
He is skating to music from the “Hamilton” soundtrack, a move that creator Lin-Manuel Miranda approves.
“I saw his ‘Room Where It Happens’ routine and it was incredible. I’m rooting for Jason,” Miranda told NBC Chicago.
Jason’s parents said they’re still in awe of the outpouring of support their son gets from people at home and around the world. His childhood bedroom is full of gifts Jason has collected from fans, including teddy bears that wear replicas of Jason’s costumes. He donates most of the stuffed animals thrown onto the ice to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
In 2014, the city of Highland Park rallied around Jason. Buses showed signs wishing him well, stores displayed banners, even an ice statue was hoisted in the town center.
“It was largely the reason I wanted to move back to Chicago was that sense of community, and to see that community truly come out and support him…it was heartwarming,” said Steve Brown.