The top four finishers in the U.S. Figure Skating men's championships… (Matthew Stockman / Getty…)
BOSTON -- In 2011, after Jason Brown delivered a dazzling free skate in his senior debut at the U.S. Championships, it was apparent his ninth-place finish was not an accurate reflection of his promising future in the sport.
Then 16, Brown had not even mastered the triple axel jump, a litmus test for success in elite men's skating. Given that, it seemed as if his development timetable would be geared to the 2018 Olympics.
His coach, Kori Ade, had another plan. Three years ago, she talked of having Brown on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team.
"I know my skaters' potential," Ade said Sunday afternoon, with a big smile.
Ade spent those three years convincing Brown of that potential, no matter that he would finished eighth and ninth the last two years at the national championships.
Brown proved her right by earning one of the two U.S. men's Olympic spots with the most electric performance of the U.S. Championships.
Brown had the TD Garden audience standing, shouting and clapping with 10 seconds left in a free skate to Irish step dance music. The judges applauded in their way, giving Brown first place in the free skate and second overall to a resurgent Jeremy Abbott, who made a second consecutive Olympic team by winning his fourth national title.
Abbott, who had a 12.39-point lead over Brown after winning the short program, was second in the free skate and finished with 274.27 points. Brown, third in the short program, had 270.08, a score that had him gasp in disbelieving joy when he saw it.
"I can't believe what happened," Brown said. "The program that I put out, I can believe that happened because I trained so hard and worked so hard to be able to do it."
In a recent conference call, Brown showed he also had realized a 2014 Olympic berth was possible, no matter that he still lacks a quadruple in his jump arsenal. He drew confidence from Evan Lysacek winning the 2010 Olympics without one.
"It wasn't until midway through this season when I started to believe it," Brown said. "My coach had been always trying to get me on that page: 2014, 2014, 2014. I'm realistic, and I didn't even allow myself to think there, because I didn't think I was ready. Over three years, I progressed and got more confident."
After graduating last year from a Chicago-area high school, Brown went with Ade when she moved her training base from Chicago's north suburbs to Monument, Colo.
"That atmosphere and training at altitude, especially with these programs being so tough, I couldn't have asked for a better time to move," Brown said.
His time has come.