Update with Jordan Brauninger
An Unseen Skaters special. January 2, 2004.
Jordan Brauninger, 16, qualified for this year's ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Sweden by winning the gold medal in Mexico City and placing 4th in Japan. The 2003 Junior Men's silver medalist will make his Senior debut at 2004 Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia, January 3-10. He is coached by Stephanie Miller and Ted Masdea in Crescent Springs, Kentucky. This is Brauninger's second interview with Unseen Skaters - the one from a year ago, before 2003 Nationals, can be read here.
You started working with a new choreographer, Tom Dickson, this past summer. Did he pick out your program music and explain his reasoning to you?
Tom picked out the short program music, "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess, performed by Kenny G. Surprised me to no end that I really liked it. I mean Kenny G.? The program has turned into a bit of a Fosse (as in Bob) style number with some pretty sexy choreo. I think Tom wanted to see if I could dance a bit. The Patton music was kinda thrust upon him, but he did a great job giving me a program that builds all the way to the end. All my long programs have been classical since juvenile, so this is my first movie soundtrack. And besides that, I liked old George [General Patton]. He was a tough S.O.B.
How would you describe the process of putting the two programs together and how long did each program take to choreograph?
Each program took about a week or so to put the basic choreo in place. After that it has just been tweaking and adjusting. The point this year is showing growth as an artist. A slow and provocative (nice word, eh?) short program and a dramatic character-based long. A person watching these programs should have two very different responses. Hopefully neither one involves the "gag reflex."
How would you describe your second Junior Grand Prix Final experience (in Malmo, Sweden, December 11-14, 2003) and can you compare and contrast your skating from one year ago (in The Hague, Netherlands) to now?
Interesting question. Everyone wants to skate the best that they can when it matters the most. I have been fortunate enough to skate to the best of my ability when the chips are down five times as near as I can figure. I have usually lost when that happens because I am rising to the level of the competition, really skating "better" than I can. But after that happens, after I raise the bar for my personal best, that level is expected and I can duplicate that performance with no pressure.
Last year at The Hague, I skated two clean programs with every element I had and finished in sixth place. Without a triple Axel and being the new kid on the block, that was as good as it was going to get. The other two Americans in 2002, Parker [Pennington, 3rd place] and Evan [Lysacek, 5th place], were just better than I was but they gave me a target to shoot at. Unfortunately it was a moving target so I still haven't managed to hit them, but I am getting closer.
The Russians, however, have now been officially "HIT"! The Russians call a short program without a triple Axel a "Ladies Program." And they don't mean it as a compliment. One of the reasons I was determined to have the triple Axel in my short this year was last year's "nice ladies program" comments from the Russians. This year my short program was triple Axel-triple toe, triple flip and double Axel. And I ended up 6th! Ha! This year everyone had a triple Axel. The janitor had a triple Axel fer chrissakes. No big deal. Just suck it up and skate a clean long. Another triple Axel and six more triples and, voila, 4th place is mine. Too bad I would rather be dead than finish fourth, but, hey, you can't always get what you want. As much as I wanted to win, I have to congratulate Evan [Lysacek], Andrei [Griazev] and Chris [Mabee] for skating their asses off in Malmo. At least now I know where I stand if everyone skates perfect. Aaarrggghhhh!
Any amusing moments from the Junior Grand Prix Final you can share?
As far as funny goes... Chris Mabee tells me that Griazev is going to do triple Axel for his encore jump at the gala on Sunday, so I go up to him and say "Good luck on the triple Axel, guy. I'm doing that for my encore jump too." And then I went out and nailed it. Of course he did too. Counting the janitor that made three of us...
You nailed a triple Axel under the spotlights without a warm up?
No warm up at all. My coach did tell me not to kill myself. Of course he tells me that 16 times per day... Miki Ando is going to be world champion someday soon. Find a bookie and bet some money on that.
Care to elaborate a little more on why? Did Sweden's Lina Johansson make it a close 2nd to Japan's Miki Ando, the 2003 Junior Grand Prix Final champion?
Well, there's close and then there's close. Miki lands quads and triple Lutz-triple loops like it's nothing. Lina skated her best and lost in her home country with the crowd goin' crazy. Besides that, I didn't say "ladies" did I? Trust me, the men are glad she skates in the women's side.
Would you like to rate the qualities of the men's triple Axels at this year's Junior Grand Prix Final, including your own?
How about if I compare the triple Axel to other people who everyone already
Lysacek = Johnny Weir. It's a compliment for sure.
Griazev = Alexei Yagudin... Russians clone Olympic champion. Film at eleven.
Brauninger = Kulik. Ilia Kulik.
Mabee = Brian Boitano. Great speed in, great height, slow out.
[Alexander] Uspenski = Plushenko. Paging Mishin. We have another jumper here for you coach.
[Tomas] Verner = Elvis Stojko.
Who do you think was the best overall spinner in the men's event?
In your opinion, who had the most complex or interesting choreography?
Short Program, Lysacek - Me - Griazev. Long Program, Griazev - Lysacek - Me.
Did you eat any interesting foods in Sweden? Experience any Swedish customs? How would you rate Sweden vs. the other countries you've competed in so far?
As far as customs go, there was a moment of recognition on Friday when the Saint Lucia celebration took place on the ice. If you are a fan of Denis Leary movies it was great. People who have seen "The Ref" will know what I mean. The food was excellent but my fave is still sushi... and thanks to Ian and Brad for the great costume! [see photo of long program, 2003 Junior Grand Prix Final] Sweden was a great experience and my favorite competition so far. The difference is the people. I miss everyone (O.K., 90%) and hope we can all get together at The Hague for Junior Worlds.
Do you want to tell people what to look out for in your upcoming practices at 2004 Nationals in Atlanta?
Look out for? Outside of my immediate family, I doubt anyone in the state of Georgia could pick me out of a line up. And if they could, it would be a coincidence, I swear! Maybe if I wear a scarlet "K" for Kentucky? Jump-wise, triple Axel-triple toe, triple Lutz-triple toe and who knows what else?
What would you consider to be a successful Nationals for your debut as a senior?
Successful would be not falling on my butt! Wildly successful would be two clean programs and top eight. Insanely successful would be top six and a romantic candlelight dinner with ... finishing with a slightly warmed Courvoisier. Clearly I'm shooting for "insanely successful"!
Any ideas on how you will celebrate your 17th birthday after Nationals (January 19)?
Speaking as "J-Money, International Gigolo," it will probably involve lots of whipped cream and candles. Maybe some chocolate syrup and of course, Courvoisier... All right, fine. Cake and Ice cream. But no funny hats dammit!
Photograph copyright © Carl-Gustaf Ringdahl. Skate photograph copyright © Dave Amorde. Unless otherwise noted, all content Do not reproduce elsewhere without permission.