Golden Skate

Interview with Alissa Czisny

2007 US bronze medalist Alissa Czisny competed at her first World Figure Skating Championships this season.

A native of Bowling Green, Ohio, Alissa Czisny is a junior at Bowling Green State University where she majors in International studies. She was awarded the “Outstanding Sophomore of the Year Award for International Studies in 2006 along with the “First Year Russian Student Award”.

This season, Czisny placed fourth at Skate Canada, ninth at Cup of Russia, and fifth at the Four Continents. She then competed at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships where she placed 15th overall. It was her first senior debut at this event.

“I had a really wonderful time at my first World Championships!” said Czisny. “I was able to watch some of the events and tried to learn and experience as much as possible.”

The 19-year-old admitted that her short program wasn’t very good, but she was satisfied with her performance in the long.

“I will take the experiences I’ve gained from this competition and use them to help me as I work toward my goals for next season,” Czisny added.

The 2007 US National bronze medalist is currently touring with Champions On Ice which ends in June.

“I am enjoying the experience so far, and I look forward to having a great tour,” offered Czisny. “I think that it is such a great learning experience, performing often and in different places!”

Laura B. (USA): You have become my favorite skater now. I compare you to Angela Nikodinov, another beautiful skater to watch, but like Angela, it seems that your nerves overtake you at times. Is there anything that you are doing differently this season to combat this? I wish you all the best. I’ll be rooting for you!

Czisny: Thanks! This season, I began working with a performance coach to help me overcome my nerves in competition. I began this work after Cup of Russia and I believe that this work has helped me when I compete. I also plan to continue this “mental” training for this next competitive season!

Anonymous: You are a skater whom seems to have it all except for consistency and nerve. Boitano and Browning have given you input. They must see the potential you have. Will you consider changing coaches? Even for the summer? Perhaps with Frank Carroll or Christy Ness? Would love to see you soar to the top as a skater! You are so naturally talented!

Czisny: Each skater struggles with some aspect of their skating, and competition nerves seem to be where I struggle. I’ve been working with a performance coach (similar to a sports psychologist), and I also work with several other coaches for my skating. However, the real solution does not lie in the coaching I receive, but in my overcoming the competition nerves.

Katy (USA): You are the only US woman who does seem to do a “pure” triple Lutz (i.e. curve approach vs. straight line). Have you ever thought of switching to the straight line? Does it make you mad when a ‘flutz’ is judged the same points as your Lutz?

Czisny: When I first learned to do a Lutz jump, my coach made me do it off a big circle, ensuring that I would use the outside edge. I’ve never had trouble getting the jump on an outside edge ever since!

Larry (USA): Caroline Zhang, Mirai Nagasu, Rachael Flatt, Ashley Wagner, Kristine Musademba — What is your strategy to hold off the tidal wave of youngsters that will be gunning to knock you off the podium in the next year or two?

Czisny: When I skate, I do not think about the skaters that I am competing against. Instead, I try to focus on skating my own personal best and performing for the judges and the audience, rather than focusing on the outcome of the competition.

Mavy (USA): How did you approach your LP at nationals differently than you did before?

Czisny: For my long program at Nationals, I just tried to stay completely focused on the present moment without letting myself think of how important it was to skate my best. Throughout the whole program, I was able to stay focused and I took each step at a time. By the time it was over, I had skated one of my best long programs all year!

Greig (Ireland): How much pressure is their just before you perform?

Czisny: Usually, there is a lot of pressure on each skater before he/she performs. Most of the pressure comes from the skaters themselves. Instead of focusing on the pressure, though, I think about how much I enjoy skating and performing. It helps to forget about the pressure and just focus on each moment while I am skating.

Ellie (USA): What are you focusing on before you take the ice for your warm-up in a competition?

Czisny: When I am about to take the ice for my competition warm-up, I am probably visualizing each jump that I will warm up. I go through each jump and think of the cue words that make each jump perfect. Also, while I’m standing waiting to get on the ice, I try to get the feel of the arena and the audience.

Samantha H. (CAN): I was just wondering how you deal and learn from all the pressure and disappointment at a competition after you fall and not let it get you down or make you feel real crummy?

Czisny: Although I am sometimes disappointed with my performances at a competition, I try to learn from my experiences at each event so that I can improve for the next one. I will let myself feel disappointed for a moment, but then I will tell myself that it is past and I need to move on and try harder for the next competition.

Sophie H. (CAN): I figure skate too and I am not able to get my leg up anywhere up like one should and wanted to know how you get your incredible flexibility. Any tips on how to improve to get even greater flexibility? Thanks so much!

Czisny: Before I skate every day, I usually warm up and stretch for about thirty to forty minutes. I try to stretch each muscle group so I don’t pull any muscles when I’m on the ice. Also, stretching after skating is important to gain flexibility. Also, ballet helps not only to gain flexibility, but also to gain strength.

Anthony (USA): You are one of the most graceful skaters I have seen in a while. You especially excel in spins. So, when you perform spins, how do you keep yourself from getting dizzy?

Czisny: Thank you! Hmmm… I don’t know if it is possible not to get dizzy! However, I get less dizzy if I practice my spins a lot. By practicing spins often, my body is able to get used to the spinning, and I don’t get quite as dizzy.

Mavy (USA): You are a beautiful skater that I’ve seen besides Sasha Cohen. You have the most beautiful line – and especially your spins. It’s always centered, fast, and with gorgeous position. What is the secret to that and what kind of training should I do to improve my spins? Thanks!

Czisny: Thank you, Mavy! The best advice that I can give to anyone trying to improve their spins is to practice, practice, practice! When I was younger, my sister and I always practiced our spins together. We would spin for hours, seeing who could hold their spin longer and/or who could spin faster. We also tried to come up with as many variations as possible.

Alice (USA): I noticed whenever you perform, you always have a very gorgeous smile on your face, which is something that’s rarely seen. Also, you remind me of a graceful ballerina. How long have you trained in ballet? Have you been in any ballet performances? If so, which ones?

Czisny: I have been taking ballet lessons for about fifteen years. The past five years or so, I’ve taken ballet about twice a week to help my skating. I believe that this ballet training has greatly helped my skating and I intend to continue with it. However, I’ve never been in any ballet performances because most of the ballet lessons I take are tailored to help my skating.

Sam (USA): Michelle Kwan was the face and standard of U.S. figure skating for over 10 years, and she is still very well respected and liked around the world among coaches, judges, competitors, and relatively “newcomers” to the world scene. Does any of your skating and aspirations resemble that of hers?

Czisny: I greatly admire Michelle Kwan for all that she has done for figure skating. Most of all, I admire the length of time she was able to continue skating competitively. She consistently performed well at competitions, and brought a great joy to her skating that drew in the audiences. I hope that my own skating can have an impact like hers!

Samantha Z. (CAN): I skate and I’m working on my double and triple jumps. I was wondering if you had any tips on how to get anything close to the amazing height you get on your jumps? Thanks a bunch!

Czisny: One of the best ways to improve your jump height is to work on off-ice strength and plyometrics. By increasing your strength and working on your off-ice jump height, your jumps will soon get bigger on the ice! Keep working hard, and they will gradually improve! Good luck!

Larry (USA): Who do you like best, Tolstoy or Dosteyevsky? What is your favorite Russian novel?

Czisny: I tend to prefer Tolstoy, although I have to admit that I haven’t read too many Russian novels. Most of the time spent in my Russian courses focused on learning the Russian language, although I did learn Russian history and about Russian writers, composers, and other famous Russians.

Toni R (USA): First of all let me say I admire your drive. I can barely keep afloat with school and a part time job! I admire you for being able to be a world class skater and take a full load of classes. How hard is it to get from the school mindset into the skating mindset, or do you pretty much take the same approach to both?

Czisny: For everything I do, I always try to give my best effort into my work, whether it is skating, school, or anything else. I guess that it is not difficult for me to switch from a school mindset to a skating mindset because they are both so different. However, both involve discipline, dedication, and hard work; although one involves mental work and the other physical (and mental, too, I suppose!) work. This way, I can rest physically while I do schoolwork, and I can take a break from schoolwork when I skate!

Lisa (USA): You are such an elegant skater and it is always a pleasure to see you perform! I admire your dedication to your education. How do you balance being a top level skater who travels around the world with being a top high honor role student?

Czisny: Thank you! One thing that helps me balance school and skating is that I am currently taking online classes from Bowling Green State University. By taking online classes, I do not have to miss any classes or lectures, and I am able to take along schoolwork when I travel. Having said that, I feel that online classes tend to involve much more work, so I tend to spend my free time catching up on schoolwork!

Larry (USA): It was reported that your flight to Tokyo was delayed and you arrived later than you had planned. On the other hand, some of your best performances have come when you were thrown into the mix at the last minute. Combining skating with a full school schedule, do you thrive on a hectic schedule, or do you sometimes wish you had more time to catch your breath before rushing off to the next event?

Czisny: It seems that I’m always delayed going to competitions, doesn’t it? I don’t know why that always happens, but it usually does bring good results! I usually thrive on a busy schedule, though, because I enjoy traveling. Once in a while, it is nice to take a break to renew my energy before I jump back into my busy schedule!

Penny (USA): You work so hard. With the Olympics approaching, are you planning to take some time off from school and concentrate on skating?

Czisny: I hope to graduate soon, and after I graduate, I will probably take some time off from school. However, at the moment, I enjoy taking classes while I am training, although it sometimes gets difficult when I travel a lot for competitions and shows.

Larry (USA): Is your sister Amber still involved in skating? Have you and she ever thought of about skating a duet in an exhibition?

Czisny: My sister does not compete in skating anymore because of injuries that she was faced with. However, she is currently coaching many skaters, and also choreographs for skaters. Once, she and I actually skated a duet in an exhibition, but we were much younger then!

Brittany (USA): I am a Christian, and I have heard that you are a Christian, too. What role does your faith play in your skating?

Czisny: Yes, I am a Christian. When I am skating, I realize that I am not able to do anything without God’s help; I try to put my trust in Him, and remember that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Elora (USA): First off, I must say you have a beautiful skate style! Is there a figure skater, male or female, retired or current, you really admire, and why?

Czisny: Thank you! Two of the skaters that I admire the most are Kurt Browning and Scott Hamilton (who is from my hometown of Bowling Green, Ohio!). Both of them enjoy skating and love to entertain audiences. They’ve taken skating to a whole different level of performing, and they have continued in the sport for a long time. Also, both of them, while very successful, are so modest and humble. I’ve worked with Kurt Browning (he choreographed my “Man of La Mancha” exhibition program), and his love for skating is contagious!

Larry (USA): I caught your act at the recent benefit show for the young skater who is undergoing treatment for cancer. Do you know how she is doing?

Czisny: At the time of the show, the young girl had already undergone chemotherapy treatment, but that had not worked on her cancer. Her doctors are giving her experimental treatments and she has also had surgery to remove some of the tumors. Unfortunately, the cancer is also in her liver, and she will need a liver transplant. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.

Katy (USA): Have you ever thought of picking up a minor in dance and becoming a skating choreographer?

Czisny: My sister is a dance major, and she is planning to become a skating choreographer (she has already started that career, actually). As much as I enjoy dance, I do not have an interest in pursuing dance right now, and I think that I might prefer coaching rather than choreographing skating. I think my sister is much better at that than I am!

Toni R. (USA): What are your long-term goals? Do you see yourself in skating shows or do you plan to ‘get out’ of skating and focus on something else?

Czisny: I love skating and I hope to continue skating for a long time. I plan to continue skating and touring in shows for awhile, and after that, who knows? I would like to coach skating, although there are many career options that I have also considered outside of the skating world.

Larry (USA): As a political science and languages major, do you have plans for a career in diplomacy after you finish with your skating career?

Czisny: As of right now, I am focusing on my skating career and finishing my degree in International Studies. I hope that I will have a long skating career, before I move on to other careers. However, I have considered diplomacy as a possible future career.

Gio (Italy): You’re a beautiful skater!!! Are you planning more Latin numbers in the future? I think that music fits you very much.

Czisny: Thank you! I would love to skate more Latin numbers in the future, although I am not sure if I will during this upcoming season. Right now, I am in the process of looking for music for new short and long programs, so I have no idea yet what music I will skate to next!

Paula (USA): Thank you very much for taking out the time to answer questions! What advice would you give to young skaters who are considering ‘competitive skating’?

Czisny: The best advice I could give any aspiring figure skater would probably be to work hard, make sure you have fun, and set goals and work towards those goals. If you don’t enjoy the sport, it is very hard to be successful. Diligence and determination can take you a long way. And never compare yourself to others: instead, compete with yourself—set goals, work hard to reach those goals, and then set new goals. Reach for the stars!

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