Home Figure Skating News Czisny captures first Grand Prix title

Czisny captures first Grand Prix title

by Anna Kondakova
Anna Kondakova

USA’s Alissa Czisny performs to Selections from Winter and Spring by George Winston at the 2010-11 Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating.

USA’s Alissa Czisny was able to defend her lead and win her first ever Grand Prix Final title (180.75), while Carolina Kostner of Italy (178.60) edged out Japan’s Kanako Murakami (178.59) for silver by the smallest possible margin.

The best performance of the night was delivered by Miki Ando, who won the long program, but had to settle for fifth place overall (173.15).

Despite the fact that the Ladies have a reputation of being the most inconsistent discipline in figure skating, their long programs at the 2010 Grand Prix Final were the best skated event of the night with the majority of participants making no more than one mistake with hardly any falls at all.

Ando, who had skated a disastrous and painfully looking short program yesterday, was a completely different skater today. Even though she did not attempt a triple-triple combination, her performance to Piano Concerto by Grieg, which featured six triple jumps, was simply outstanding.

The Japanese did not put a foot wrong in the entire routine (except for getting low levels of her spins). The level of her command over her moves, as well as audience’s attention, reminded everyone that despite the recent problems, she is a former World Champion and a contender for medals of the upcoming World Championships in Tokyo. She received 122.70 for her free skating and posted the best technical score of the night.

“I’m pleased with today’s performance,” she said. “Especially with the fact that I could succeed the double Axel – triple toe combination during the second half of the program, which was one of my goals of this season. After the disappointment of the short program, I could regain my concentration and I could show my best performance today.”

Teammate Murakami finished second in the long program, nailing a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination and three more triples. She did, however, get an edge call on her Lutz and popped a planned triple flip into a single.

“I feel upset that I missed the same jump as I did at Skate America,” said the 2010 Junior World Champion.

Technically, her performance was very strong, but her routine to The Mask of Zorro lacked the sophistication of the programs by the more mature skaters. It is a good vehicle for her, however, as it highlights her power and attack, but in a close competition, her presentation scores are a liability. She did receive a seasonal best for her routine (117.12) and deserves a lot of praise for being able to skate that well after two other skaters before her (Ando and Suzuki) delivered almost flawless routines.

“Their performance did not put extra pressure on me,” she claimed, “but I have always looked up to these two wonderful skaters. I admire their skills, so I really wanted to do well myself.”

“I was pleasantly surprised to receive a season best for this performance,” Murakami added. “Despite my mistake, I had a good result. It is an honor to stand on the podium at the Grand Prix Final. Especially that this is the first year for me to compete at the senior circuit. However, I feel more disappointed because I couldn’t do a clean skate.”

Czisny was a close third in free skating (116.99). Her triple flip was marked as underrotated and the American stepped out of her final double Axel, but overall it was a mesmerizing performance which gained a lot of applause from the audience.

“I stayed on my feet, so I was happy,” she summed up. “I had to fight my way through that program. I’m happy with the outcome and it just feels good to be back and to be able to get close to reaching my potential. I came in and my goal was to skate my best and obviously I can’t control the outcome. I dreamed it, winning it, and it happened. It gives me a little bit of confidence that I can go out there and stay on my feet.”

The skater credits her coaching team, Yuko Sato and Jason Dungjen, for her improvement in consistency.

“We have worked a lot on technique,” she explained, “but it is still work in progress.”

Czisny does not plan to attempt a triple – triple combination in competition in the near future, though.

“Right now I cannot foresee it,” she said. “I am still working on my consistency and staying on my feet. It is a great experience for me to learn that I can perform under pressure.”

Despite attempting only lower-tier triples, Italy’s Carolina Kostner was a close fourth (116.47) which allowed her to hold onto her overall second place in the standings. The student of Michael Huth skated a charming and touching program to L’Apres-Midi d’un Faun, but popped one of her triple loops to a single. She ended up with one toe loop, two Salchows and one loop, which is a fairly weak content for a top competitor, but the quality of her jumps, combined with the levels she was able to achieve on her spins, kept her in contest for medal. The style of the music suits her personality perfectly, and her basic skating skills and elegance made the introspective routine stand out in this field.

“I feel so comfortable out there and had so much fun,” said the Italian. “My jumps were okay with only one mistake. I was happy just to qualify and even happier to medal. I think I’ve been improving from competition to competition, but I feel I had extra energy here.”

The skater said that her performance today finally allowed her to recapture “that beautiful feeling of skating well,” which she has been missing in the last couple of seasons. After disappointing results at the Olympic Games, she was uncertain if she wanted to continue.

“I took time off and it made me realize that I am going to miss skating if I quit,” Kostner explained. “It is really just a change in my head. I love skating. I do it for fun. I missed the feeling of doing it because I want to, not because I have to, and it finally started to show in competition as well. After a few years of disappointment, I think today’s skate gave me the confidence that I made the right decision to keep skating. I am very happy.”

Akiko Suzuki of Japan set the audience on fire with her passionate performance to Fiddler of the Roof, however, her new season best of 115.46 was only good enough for fifth place in the long and fourth overall (173.72). The student of Hiroshi Nagakbo made only one visible mistake – she doubled her second flip attempt, but the technical panel gave her an edge call on both flips and marked a triple toe loop in combination with a double Axel as underrotated.

“I’m not totally happy about today’s performance,” she said afterwards, “but it was better than the Cup of China, even though I still have so much room for improvement. But I felt the music very well to express my story.”

USA’s Rachel Flatt was only able to produce one clean and fully rotated triple (three others were a quarter of a turn short), and finished in a distant sixth with 82.38 points for the free and 127.57 overall.

“I’m horribly disappointed, but I’m just going to chalk it up to experience,” said the American. “At least it happened here and not at U.S. Nationals. Being hurt, I had absolutely very little training and no confidence going in. I’m just putting this aside and am going to regroup and start from scratch on a couple of things.”

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