Feb. 10, 2014 at 3:10 PM ET
Olympic figure skater Jason Brown is so electrified with enthusiasm, you feel like you’ll be shocked just standing near him. Now a bronze medal winner, the ponytailed Illinois native was virtually unknown up until a few weeks ago, when he captured the hearts and minds of the Internet after a video of him doing his signature program to “Reel Around The Sun” from “River Dance” went viral.
“Before the U.S. championships I wasn’t someone expected to make the [U.S. Olympic] team,” he told TODAY.com. “I had no media attention going into the event.”
A video of him skating was picked up on BuzzFeed and his name started to trend on Twitter. Now, more than 3.7 million views later, Brown is a star.
“I had about 3,000 Twitter followers before that. Now I have 13,000 people following me on Twitter, and over 1,000 Facebook friend requests,” he said excitedly.
Brown isn’t the only Olympian to be feeling the love. After 18-year-old Olympic luger Tucker West’s father came on TODAY and announced to the world that his son was “very single,” West also became a viral sensation, getting bombarded by Facebook messages and tweets from fans. While the newfound attention can be overwhelming, Brown shared his advice to savor the spotlight, from one viral star to another.
“Just have fun with it and enjoy it — you’ve got to embrace it, and I think he’s done that,” Brown said. “Take the time to reach out to your fans and say ‘thank you’ to them and joke around with them, because it is amazing to have fans who care enough to message you like that.”
Brown has had no downtime, but says he plans to reply to every message. The craziest message he’s gotten, he says, was from Bill Whelan, the composer of “Reel Around the Sun.”
“He wrote me this long letter about how much he loves my skating, my interpretation and the way I transformed ‘River Dance’ onto the ice. That was huge, it was so surreal,” Brown said with an ear-to-ear smile. “It means so much that people like me as an athlete and as a person, I’m just so grateful.”