When the 2016 US National Figure Skating Championships begin later this monthin Minnesota, reigning men's title holder and 2014 Olympian Jason Brown will not be on hand to defend his gold medal. The 21-year old skater, who first rose to international prominence in early 2014 with his crowd-pleasing Riverdance free skate, announced his withdrawal from the competition on Jan. 7.

Back strain forces Brown to withdraw

According to US Figure Skating, Brown opted out ofthe competition --per his doctor's orders-- due to a back strain he sustained during training. Although "deeply disappointed" to be unable to defend his national title, he maintained his trademark positive attitude via Twitter, where he wrote "Kills me to have to withdraw from the 2016 US Championships, but I'm determined to come back stronger than ever!!"

Despite not competing at nationals, Brown, who is expected to make a complete recovery after a period of rest, could still compete at Worlds, which will begin March 30 in Boston.

During a Jan. 7 media call, he said that he hadn't yet explored the option of petitioning for a berth. He placed fourth at the 2015 iteration of the prestigious event, and once he's able to fully master quadruple jumps, his high artistic merit should make him a serious contender on the international stage.

Others who will sit out the competition

Brown is not the only formermedal winner who plans to sit out nationals this year. Also opting out of the competitionare reigning bronzemedalist Joshua Farris, who is recovering from a concussion, and four-time US title holder and 2008-09 Grand Prix Final champion Jeremy Abbott. The absence of several key playersfrom the lineup makes Max Aaron, who won the Skate America in 2015 and earned the national title in 2013,and reigning silver medalist Adam Rippon the men to keep an eye on as the event plays out.

The 2016 US National Figure Skating Championships will take place Jan. 15-24 in downtown Saint Paul. The championship-level events will take place Jan. 17-24 at the Xcel Energy Center.

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