Golden Skate

Czisny leads at US Nationals

Alissa Czisny, 21, placed first in the Short Program with her routine to The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns.

It was a very interesting evening of Championship Ladies short programs. The three ladies who represented the United States at the World Championships last season are: Kimmie Meissner who is out due to injury, Beatrisa Lang who is currently in 10th, and Ashley Wagner who sits in 12th. Last year’s champion, Mirai Nagasu, had a disappointing showing, and is in currently in sixth.

Meanwhile, Alissa Czisny (Detroit SC), who has all the unrealized potential in the world and finished in ninth place at last year’s championships, takes a huge lead into the free skate after an inspired and technically perfect performance that brought the audience to their feet.

Czisny mesmerizing the audience with a balletic and controlled performance to The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. Long plagued with inconsistency, the 21-year-old showed a renewed competitive spirit that has been absent from her skating to this point.

“I’ve done a lot of work,” said the doe-eyed leader, “so I expected to skate that well. But I am still very happy to have skated that well.”

When asked what she changed about her training, Czisny responded: “Everything. More specifically the way that I look at my skating, and I have learned how to train smarter and make training more efficient.”

“I enjoy skating more, and enjoy the challenge of it,” the college senior continued. “I guess that I used to get too nervous, and now I try to enjoy the whole process of it.”

Czisny opened with an easy triple-Lutz-double toe loop combination, and the audience held its collective breath as she glided into her solo triple flip jump. As she skated, the arena was so quiet that you could almost hear Czisny’s heart beating. As she progressed through the program, you could feel the positive energy being sent her way.

“I could really tell that the crowd was behind me,” Czisny admitted. “I almost feel like it’s the hometown crowd since I am from Ohio, and I am so happy that they are so supportive.”

Czisny score 65.75 points for her efforts, by far a personal best, and heads into the free skate with a five point lead over Rachael Flatt (Broadmoor SC) who finished in second place.

Flatt was the last skater of the evening, skating several hours after Czisny lit up the arena, and worked a little magic of her own.

“It wasn’t my best,” said the reigning silver medalist, “but I am happy in general with how things went. My legs didn’t feel great going into the program, which is odd for me, but I am very happy with where I am.”

Skating a sophisticated program to Moon River, Flatt opened with a safe triple flip-triple toe loop combination.

“My coaches and I had discussed my triple-triple before I competed,” the 16-year-old explained. “We had decided that as long as I had a proper landing on the triple flip, that I would definitely go for [it]. But we [also] discussed that a triple-double is definitely okay, too. It was definitely a risk that I was going to take again this year, and it didn’t happen which I am okay with. I am definitely going to go for it in the long.”

Flatt continued to skate cleanly through her program, but did not have the spark of the leader. She did, however, receive high levels on her non-jump elements, and kept Czisny from making it a landslide heading into the freeskate.

Flatt scored 60.19 points, and leads Caroline Zhang (All Year FSC) by a little more than a point.

Last year’s pewter medalist, Zhang opened with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination that served notice that she was here to compete for the title. The current World Junior silver medalist then landed a nice triple loop, but then struggled on the landing of her double Axel to take the wind out of her sails.

“I think that everything went well except the double axel,” said the reserved 15-year-old. “I was just a little overexcited, and had to step out of it.”

Zhang was uncharacteristically sedate in her program, and only received a level two on both her straightline steps and layback spin.

“I think that I should have held my layback longer,” acknowledged Zhang, “but I hope to improve that in the free program.”

Zhang scored 58.91 points, placing her comfortably ahead of fourth place finisher Brittney Rizo (SC of Boston).

Rizo is thus far, the surprise of the ladies’ competition. In just two-and-a-half minutes, last year’s Junior bronze medalist went from also-ran to competitor.

“I was kind of nervous at first,” Rizo admitted. “But then I heard all my friends cheering for me, so that calmed me down.”

The Eastern Sectional silver medalist opened with a triple loop jump, and then flew into a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination that got the crowd on her side. A tiny mistake on the double Axel marred what could have been a perfect program.

“I really just wanted to do two solid programs, and I never thought that I would be at the top,” the 17-year-old confessed. “It’s very inspiring!”

Rizo scored 55.43 points in her routine to The Giving, and will skate in the final flight of ladies in the free skate in her first try.

Rizo’s training mate Katrina Hacker (SC of Boston) placed fifth just behind her friend with a reflective program to music from On Golden Pond.

“I’m portraying a girl who embodies the joy of skating,” explained last year’s sixth place finisher. “She is on a frozen pond and just appreciates every moment of being on the ice.”

Hacker skated a clean but safe program, opening with a simple triple toe loop-double toe loop. Her next move, a triple loop, was the most difficult element of her program, but she used the strength of all of her other elements to keep her in the hunt.

The high school graduate has deferred her acceptance to Princeton University for one year, and will enter the school in the fall.

“It was absolutely the right decision to take a year off to dedicate to my skating,” admitted the 18-year-old. “I just wanted to compete again, and I am glad to be skating so well.”

Reigning champion Mirai Nagasu (Pasadena FSC) was disappointing in defense of her title, making mistakes on two major elements and finding herself in sixth place. The 15-year-old opened with a triple Lutz that was too close to the boards causing the champion to virtually land on the boards.

“I have been practicing at an Olympic-sized rink, so I did get a little too close to the wall,” said a stunned Nagasu. “I’m glad that I made the mistake today in the short program so I can correct it before the long program.”

The current World Junior Champion salvaged the program by adding a double toe loop on the end of her intended solo triple flip, but later botched her double Axel which will make it tough for her to defend her title.

“I know that this might sound a little pessimistic, but this is probably my last competition this season,” Nagasu said through tears. “I think that going into next year, I know what I have to do because this year I was really lazy in the summer. I was blaming everything on my ankle, but in reality I was being lazy, was growing taller, and gained some weight. I don’t think my ankle could take all of that. So I know that I have to train smarter now. Even though I made this big mistake, I know that I will correct that and have a big season next year.”

Nagasu scored 54.79 points in the short program, far below her total of 70.23 points from last season when she lead heading into the free skate.

Finishing in seventh place was 16 year-old Kristine Musademba (Washington FSC), who skated an inspired program that earned her 53.48 points. Joelle Forte (SC of New York) also skated clean and placed eighth with 53.13 points. Laney Diggs (All Year FSC) earned 52.30 points, and finished in ninth.

Liang (All Year FSC), fifth last year and a member of the 2008 World Team, popped her Lutz attempt, and had to settle for 10th place. Her total of 51.49 points keeps her within reach of the podium, but it will be a tough climb.

“The first jump went really well, but then things just kind of got away from me,” Liang said. “I know that I can put a clean program out there, and I will focus on doing that in the free.”

Last year’s bronze medalist, Wagner (SC of Wilmington), made two major errors and finished in a disappointing 12th place.

“I was in such a good mind set going out there,” said a frustrated Wagner. “My triple-triple in the warm-up was there, and practices have been great. This isn’t a one-program competition, thank goodness, and my long has been worked to the core. It has to be amazing if I have any hope of pulling up.”

The event continues with the Junior Men’s and Pairs Long Program, and the Senior Men’s Short Program.

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