Jason Brown, the 19-year-old from Chicago whose Riverdance routine earned him instant popularity when it went viral last month, has placed ninth in the men’s figure skating finals at the Sochi Olympics.
After a very impressive short program on Thursday that launched him to sixth place, just decimal points behind the third place contender Javier Fernandez of Spain, Brown made two major jumping errors in his Irish dance-inspired free skate routine today, which brought him back down to ninth place.
The medal winners were Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Patrick Chan of Canada, and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan.
Still, ninth place isn't bad for a skater who wasn’t really considered an Olympic contender until very late in the season.
A New York Times profile published just before the finals revealed the story behind Brown’s famous routine to “Reel Around the Sun.”
The free skate was a collaboration between Brown, his coach Kori Ade, who has been coaching him since he was 5, and his longtime choreographer Rohene Ward.
It was Ward who found the piece of music online and presented it to Brown and Ade.
“He had this burning fire in his eyes,” Brown told the Times, “and it was like, this is what you are going to do.”
Brown had never heard of Riverdance before and was initially intimidated by the reel’s quick tempo. “I was like, ‘Rohene, you are crazy, I cannot pull this off,' ” he said.
Ade initially thought it was corny, as movements from Riverdance had been used by other skaters at the peak of Riverdance’s popularity. Bus she was soon won over when she saw the moves Ward had in mind.
For Brown, it was far and a way the most complex choreography he has practiced to date, with hardly a moment to breathe throughout the entire four minutes and thirty seconds.
He also struggled to find the soul of he piece, until Ade developed a backstory for Brown: he was a hero who had to protect his village - banishing the invader in a dance battle, and then celebrating in victory.
After the figure skating championships in Boston, where Jason’s performance earned him both a spot in the Olympics and Internet fame, Brown’s younger brother Dylan called to let him know that the video had 100,000 views. Just a few days later, he stayed up all night to watch it break the 1 million mark.
Ade and Brown later received a Facebook note of thanks and congratulations from Riverdance composer Bill Whelan.
Here’s his viral performance: