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Triple axel between Brown and possible greatness

Friday - 1/25/2013, 10:34pm  ET

Jason Brown competes during the senior men's short program at the U.S. figure skating championships, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The triple axel bit Jason Brown again. He says he isn't discouraged, though.

Brown, who turned 18 last month, is regarded as a rising star among the U.S. men after winning the bronze medal last year in the junior world championships. But he knows to reach his potential, he must start landing the triple axel in competition as well as he has been in practice. The triple axel is a staple in men's skating.

Brown crashed early in his short program Friday night. He bounced back nicely, skating fluidly the rest of the way to Prince's bluesy "The Question of U" and scoring 74.05.

He'll get two more chances to land the triple axel in Sunday's free skate.

"I was just really excited to come to nationals with the jump, and it's been a struggle," Brown said. "I feel so blessed to have come and to land them in warm-up, and I'm excited for the long and to do them in the long. I'm not too frustrated about the axel. I wish I could have landed it. I'm happy I recovered."

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TV DEAL: U.S. Figure Skating announced deals with NBC and IceNetwork.com on Friday that will return the Grand Prix events, world championships and European championships to the main, over-the-air NBC channel.

The network will show approximately 20 hours of figure skating each year of the deal, which runs through 2017-18, including two hours of prime-time coverage of worlds in every year but the Olympic year.

"It really gives us a home for figure skating for the next five years," said David Raith, executive director of U.S. Figure Skating. "For the past few years, there's been somewhat of a patchwork of entities showing figure skating. Now we have consistency. You know where these events will be seen."

IceNetwork.com's acquisition of all U.S. media rights for International Skating Union events through 2017-18 was key to the deal. The website will stream events live -- no matter the time of the day -- but it also is allowing NBC to air select coverage. In addition to the 20 hours on NBC, some figure skating events will be shown on Universal Sports while the NBC Sports Network will show speedskating events.

Currently, skating fans either had to have Universal Sports -- which is not largely available -- or get lucky as they channel surfed to find the limited figure skating that there is on TV. These deals change that, Raith said.

"This is going to bring consistency," Raith said.

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PLENTY OF SEATS AVAILABLE: Officials are hoping for an uptick in attendance over the weekend. Crowds have been sparse so far during Omaha's first run as host.

As of Friday, about 40,000 tickets had been sold for the eight-day event that wraps up Sunday. Omaha Sports Commission president Harold Cliff said about 10,000 more would need to be sold to come close to matching the total for the lightly attended championships at Greensboro, N.C., two years ago.

Cliff said two factors might be holding down attendance. First, the world championships are in March in London, Ontario, and many fans from the Northeast who ordinarily would attend the U.S. championships might choose to go to worlds instead. Second, there isn't a built-in fan base because there are a total of only four figure-skating clubs in Omaha and Lincoln.

"You'd definitely like to have more people in the seats," Cliff said.

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YOUTH SERVED: For the first time, the juvenile and intermediate titles are also being decided at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Championships for the two lowest divisions traditionally have been held in December while the novices, juniors and seniors had their nationals in January. Holding all of the championships together exposes youngsters to the top-level skaters, said Kelly Vogtner, senior director for athlete development for U.S. Figure Skating. By competing at the same event as Ashley Wagner and Jeremy Abbott, skaters as young as 10 years old can see what is possible if they continue to work hard, Vogtner said.

"The kids appreciate being here and are star-struck," Vogtner said.

As part of the youth movement, competitors in juvenile pairs hobnobbed with senior pairs in a "buddy program." All 12 of the juvenile pairs were assigned to senior pairs. The seniors spent at least an hour mentoring the youngsters and, in some cases, watched them compete.

"Pairs is a small discipline," Vogtner said, "and we thought this would be a good way to kind of encourage the juveniles."

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