Golden Skate

Czisny surprises in Beijing

USA's Alissa Czisny performs to Korngold's Romance from Violin Concerto in D, op. 35 at the 2010-11 Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating.

Surprised continued in Senior Ladies competition. Even though two skaters successfully executed triple-triple combinations, USA’s Alissa Czisny, who did not attempt one, is first with the highest technical score of the night. She is closely followed by Carolina Kostner of Italy and Kanako Murakami and Japan.

Czisny presented a fluid program to Romance from Violin Concerto by Korngold, landing all her jumps and stunning the audience with her spectacular spins.

The soft and lyrical routine brings out the best qualities in the student of Yuko Sato and Jason Dungjen, Both the triple Lutz – double toe loop combination and a triple flip out of steps were not only properly rotated, but still received positive grades of execution. Combined with a serene presentation of the program, it allowed her to post a new personal best of 63.76 points.

For the skater, however, it felt quite different.

“I was so nervous out there, I was shaking,” she said afterward. “The program was good, but I have done better in practice. I think the performance was overall a bit tight. My jumps were not the best I could do and the spins were not the fastest I could spin.”

Qualifying for the second Grand Prix Final of her career feels quite different to the 2009 U.S. Champion.

“This time I feel like I belong here and I am in the right mind set,” said the 23-year-old. “The last time it was overwhelming.”

In order to succeed, the skater had to change a lot in her training regiment.

“It almost feels like a new beginning for me. Last season brought home to me that I really do love skating.”

Kostner delivered the most intricate program of the night to Galicia Flamenco, and the Italian seemed to be well on her way to recovering from problems which plagued the beginning of her season. She nailed the triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination, and even though she has to cut the exit curve of her triple loop shot lest she loose her balance, it was by far the best performance of the season for her.

“First of all, I am very honored to be here,” said the European Champion. “After the start of the season I did not count on  skating here, so it’s a great feeling just to be here. It is a great success for me to qualify and especially a great one to skate this well.”

The 2008 World silver medalist recently started practicing triple flips again.

“My knee is improving,” said Kostner, “mostly thanks to the efforts of physiotherapists who work with me back at home. I have missed doing flips a lot and I am eager to finally overcome the impression in my head that trying it hurts. I am happy to be doing the jump again.”

“Last year has been quite trying for me, but I have found myself now and I am coming back to appreciate skating again,” she summed up.

Murakami now has a very good chance to win a medal at her first Senior Grand Prix Final. The 2009-10 Junior Grand Prix Final Champion also nailed a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination, followed it with a triple flip, and earned higher levels of difficulty on her spins than the Italian. She received a new personal best of 61.47 points for her exuberant routine to Jumping Jack which brought smiles to the crowd.

“I just went up from Juniors,” the sixteen-year-old told the press, “so everything is a learning experience for me. I was very nervous in the beginning, but now I am calmer. I am learning something new from each competition. I am just happy to be here.”

Murakami is unfazed by her success and the fact that she is the highest ranked Japanese skater in the field.

“I don’t really think about placements,” she said. “Besides, I usually do good short programs. But there is still tomorrow. I hope I will do a good program tomorrow and end up with good results.”

Her more experienced teammate, Akiko Suzuki, also delivered a clean and expressive program to Tango Jalousie, but her triple Lutz received an edge call and the final step sequence, which was a choreographical highlight of the entire routine, was graded only a level one. Compared to her performance in Moscow, the Japanese improved the quality of her transitions making them sharper and more suitable for her tango. She received 58.26 points.

“This season I became more aggressive,” said the 25-year-old. “The desire to achieve good results comes from my heart, so I practice harder and harder. I was a little bit disappointed because I got a level one for the step sequence, but I focused more on the free program after Cup of China. I want to show my improvement tomorrow.”

Teammate Miki Ando was the last one to skate and she presented a new short program to Ennio Morricone’s The Mission, however, it was not a good performance to end a competition with and definitely not a way to debut new routine. The student of Nikolai Morozov went for a triple Lutz
- triple loop combination, but stumbled out of the landing and later fell on a triple flip. Both the loop and flip were also short of rotation and downgraded to doubles by the technical panel. Her spins also looked slow and labored and she had to fight to keep rotating during the flying sit spin. With only 50.45 points, the 22-year-old is virtually out of contest for a medal.

“I feel more comfortable with my new short program,” said the former world champion, “but I was too relaxed. I did not have enough tension. I would like to skate better tomorrow.”

USA’s Rachel Flatt also fell out of a triple flip which was downgraded to double, and her triple Lutz was marked as underrotated. It left the student of Tom Zaktrajsek with only 45.10 points.

“Obviously, it was a big disappointment as I have been training pretty well,” said the U.S. Champion. “The injury from Skate America affected my training and I had to take a week off which I don’t normally do during the season. It was very frustrating as I was not getting optimal training and it showed a little bit here.”

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