SOCHI, Russia – U.S. figure skater Jason Brown came close to ditching the trademark "bronytail" that has made him an Internet sensation at the Winter Olympics.
Brown, who will begin competition in the men's individual event on Thursday, received a flurry of attention on social media for his distinctive ponytail following his debut performance in the team competition last weekend. His haircut now even has its own Twitter account with more than 1,000 followers.
The focus on his hair has taken Brown by surprise. However, the signature look wasn't always well received. In high school, Brown was teased about the ponytail and strongly considered cutting it off.
"Growing up I just had long shaggy hair and it was something the judges would say I needed to pull it back or cut it," Brown told Yahoo Sports. "I was a young kid [people said] 'You look like a girl,' or 'You have long hair like a girl' or 'I thought you were a girl from behind.'
"There were so many times where I would come home and tell my parents I wanted to cut it because people were making fun of me. They would always sit me down and ask if I really wanted to cut it. They wanted me to be myself."
Brown, 19, is competing in his first Winter Games after earning his spot with a second-place finish behind Jeremy Abbott at the U.S. Championships last month. His contribution in the first-ever Olympic team competition, where he skated the men's long program, was enough to earn him a bronze and sparked tears of delight on the podium at Sochi's medal plaza.
Relatively inexperienced at international level, Brown is not expected to contend for an individual medal, but he has already captured plenty of attention from the television audience back home. Thanks, in no small part, to that hairdo.
"It is crazy that it became my thing," Brown said. "I am so lucky I kept it because I love it so much. The amount of people that have connected because of the ponytail and how big that has become – it is really cool.
"Eventually it is going to go [but] I don't know when. I trim it before each competition."
Evgeni Plushenko, the Russian veteran and Vancouver silver medalist, is the biggest name in the men's field, but he faces serious competition from Canada's Patrick Chan and Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu.
Abbott competed in the Vancouver Games four years ago, placing a disappointing ninth as fellow American Evan Lysacek claimed gold and Johnny Weir finished sixth.
Brown is already planning to take another crack at the Olympics and try to qualify for Rio 2016. Here in Sochi, he firmly believes that the overall Olympic experience could inspire him to a career-best performance.
"Just being around amazing athletes should be enough to motivate you more than anything else, ever," Brown said. "I have loved every minute of it. I wake up every day and I am excited about all the cool people I am going to meet in the Athletes' Village. I get to be a part of all that and, hey, people are talking about my hair, too. It is awesome."