January 26, 2014 Updated: January 30, 2014 at 9:53 am
It only took a few minutes for a star to be born.
But do not expect American figure skater Jason Brown to fade away quickly. It is far more likely that he will shine brightly for years to come.
The Illinois native, who trains at the Colorado Sports Center near Monument, entered the casual figure skating fan's consciousness when the teenager placed second at the U.S. championships and garnered his first Winter Olympics berth.
That made him the fresh-faced star of the moment. His vibrant personality, charm and willingness to work suggest the skater, who turned 19 in December, will be an Olympic mainstay for years to come.
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Brown, who moved to the area to train at altitude this summer and start his studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where he is a part-time student majoring in English and Japanese.
"This is nothing like I have ever experienced before," he said. "It's insane."
His ebullient personality charmed the judges, media and 2.9 million viewers (and counting) who later watched his free skate performance to Bill Whelan's "Reel Around the Sun" from "Riverdance" on YouTube.
Winning the free skate propelled him past more well-known skaters and he finished just behind four-time national champ and Broadmoor Skating Club member Jeremy Abbott.
That video showed a remarkable performance for a young skater in his first full season at the senior level. His energy, winsome personality and heartfelt joy during and after his performance connected with the cheering crowd. The judges were not immune either, judging from their scores.
"I have never had a crowd clap along with my performance," Brown said. "For me, that was an incredible feeling. It gave me that little extra bit of energy."
Part of Brown's charm is that he seems barely able to believe how well he has done. It took his coach a while to convince him that 2014 was his year to make the Olympics, not 2018. The key to his long-term success is his willingness to work hard.
"Jason lives very much in the moment," longtime coach Kori Ade said. "It took some convincing but once he realized it, he worked very hard to get to where he is now."
Brown placed fifth in his senior debut at Skate America after he was called up as an injury replacement for 2010 Vancouver gold medalist Evan Lysacek. He placed third in the Eric Bompard competition in Paris and second at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany. Suddenly the idea of Sochi did not seem farfetched.
"After I medaled at the Grand Prix in Paris was when I started to realize that I had a chance," he said. "Now that it's happened I am so grateful that my coach believed in me. That means so much."
The physical demand of the Riverdance routine was especially challenging this past summer while his body adjusted to the altitude. But doing so is a major reason why his performance was so strong at TD Garden in Boston. It also showed that choreographer Rohene Ward believed this year was the time for Brown.
"He said this is an Olympic year and it is time for an Olympic routine," Brown said. "It was the hardest I have ever had to work in my life. But I got in great shape and it allowed me to taper off and have fresh legs for Boston."
That work ethic and payoff hints at his future. Much was made in figure skating circles that Brown does not have a quad jump in his routines when so many top competitors do.
Of course, Lysacek won Olympic gold without it and that gave Ade the confidence that her skater, who she has coached for almost 15 years, could qualify this year.
If anything, adding the jump over the next couple of years only adds to his potential.
"He's still young," Ade said. "As his coach, I made the tactical decision that I did not want to put his body through the wear and tear of mastering that jump. The hardest part of my job in Sochi will be getting Jason to practice on time because he will want to be everywhere cheering everyone on."
"All I am trying to do is get the most out of every moment," Brown said. "Once it sinks in, the nerves will kick in like they always do before competition. Then you deal with them. But right now, it's 'Oh My God I cannot believe this!'"
He should. He made millions of believers via YouTube and national TV already. Figure skating fans can expect many more over the next two or even three Olympics to come.