Golden Skate

Czisny dazzles; captures second U.S. title

Alissa Czisny captured her second national title at the 2011 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Thursday’s ladies short program gave no real clue as to which skater was to be the 2011 US Champion. In a virtual tie heading into the free skate, three former US Champions held all of the cards in each of their hands, knowing that all they had to do was to win the freeskate.

The 2009 Champion, twenty-three-year-old Alissa Czisny, finally pulled it all together, and ran away with the title with the best performances of her career. The gold medalist earned credit for six triple jumps, though one was deemed underrotated, and outscored the silver medalist by nearly eight points.

“I had a lot of fun out there tonight,” Czisny said of her winning performance, “and I went out there and just focused on what I needed to do to make it happen. Close to the end, I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over because I was having so much fun. Winning tonight was the icing on the cake.”

Skating in a flowing blue dress to music from George Winston’s From Winter to Spring, Czisny was spectacular from the first note to the last, and had the audience pulling for her more and more as the program went along.

“To have everybody standing and knowing that they were here for me every step of the way – it was pretty cool to do it for them as well as for me,” Czisny said with her radiant smile.

With a total of 191.24 points, Czisny is the first American lady to win multiple national championships since Michelle Kwan won her ninth title in 2005. The graduate of Bowling Green State University credits her coaches Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen for helping her to regain her confidence and competitive fire.

“They believed in me when not a lot of other people did,” Czisny admitted. “Every day when I train, they believe in me, and they have helped to rebuild my confidence. I am so grateful every day that I have them in my life.”

Finishing with the silver medal was last year’s champion Rachael Flatt who had an up and down performance to her Slaughter on Fifth Avenue program.

“It certainly wasn’t my best,” admitted the Olympian. “I’ve been training clean programs at home and I did two clean long programs while I was here. Obviously, it was a little bit disappointing.”

Flatt, who deferred the start of her college career at Stanford University in order to focus on competing this season, also landed six triple jumps in her program. Like the champion, Flatt also received an under-rotation call on one of those jumps, and also had a shaky landing on another.

“It was a little bit of a rough skate for me,” Flatt confessed. “I got through it, and I was glad that I stayed on my feet. It was just a little frustrating not having the best landings on all of my jumps, but I’m glad that I have a few more competitions ahead of me this season to try to get those perfect performances out there.”

Flatt scored 183.38 points, and will join Czisny at the World Championships in March in Tokyo.

After leading the short program, 2008 Champion Mirai Nagasu struggled in her Memoirs of a Geisha freeskate, and had to settle for the bronze medal.

“I’m a perfectionist, so if I’m not satisfied, or every single run through isn’t perfect, I let that get to me instead of going out there and attacking,” Nagasu said of her performance. “I just let my nerves get the best of me.”

Nagasu landed five triple jumps and received an under-rotation call on one, and the Olympian struggled on the landing of a double Axel. The most damaging error, however, was a botched spin for which she received no credit.

“The thing that I am most disappointed with is that I was unable to get the audience on their feet,” Nagasu said. “That’s the part that I really wanted. As a skater sometimes that’s not obvious with me, but it’s not like my career is over.”

Visibly disappointed with her skate, Nagasu earned 177.26 points, and was named as first alternate to the World Championships.

“I really wanted to go to the World Championships because they are in Japan, and that’s where the rest of my family is,” Nagasu said with tears welling up in her eyes. “I really wanted to see them.”

In her senior debut, Flatt’s training mate Agnes Zawadzki came away with the pewter medal with a strong performance that featured five triple jumps. The confident high school student powered through her performances this week, and earned a total of 173.84 points in the competition.

“I’m happy with what I did,” Zawadzki said. “It’s better than what I have done all season. I have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on myself, and I even do it in practice. But I have to learn to get through programs just like I do in practice.”

For the second season in a row, Christina Gao finished in fifth place in this competition. The two-time Junior Grand Prix Finalist landed seven triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe loop combination that garnered her 10.20 points. Gao’s total of 167.20 points more than ten points higher than her score last season.

“I’m disappointed because I let myself get tired toward the end of my program,” Gao said after her program. “I had a bobble on my footwork and I stepped out of my triple toe. There’s something about nationals because I always get tired. Maybe it’s the lights and everything, but I need to learn to use that instead of letting it suck away my energy.”

After a disappointing short program, Ashley Wagner moved up one spot to finish in sixth place by landing six triple jumps. Her finish this week is the lowest of her senior national career, and the first time that she did not go home with a medal. Wagner earned 165.35 points for her efforts.

Vanessa Lam, the fifteen-year-old who won a Junior Grand Prix event in the fall, slipped from sixth to finish in seventh place overall, while Yasmin Siraj, the youngest competitor in the senior ladies division, moved up to finish in eighth place.

Joelle Forte and Melissa Bulanhagui finished in ninth and tenth place respectively.

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