Maybe it was not the performance that she was looking for, but 24 year-old Alissa Czisny captured her first Skate America title this afternoon in blistery Ontario, Calif. Czisny ended a four year drought for American ladies at the top of the Skate American podium, and now joins the likes of Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, and Sasha Cohen as winners of this competition.
“It’s always an honor to compete at Skate America,” said the champion. “I’ve medaled here before, but I’ve never won before. This is really special for me, and I guess it’s nice to win (a different Grand Prix) other than Skate Canada.”
Czisny opened her Valse Triste program with a credible attempt at a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. Though she was downgraded on the toe loop and fell on a triple flip, Czisny made good of her promise to attempt the combination from yesterday.
“That was bit uncharacteristic to miss early in my program,” admitted Czisny of the fall on the flip. “I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of score with that skate. It wasn’t my best out there today, but I tried to fight. Some things in the program went well, and some things didn’t go well.”
Czisny finished in second place in the free skate, but was able to keep it close enough to eke out the victory. Her total of 177.48 points was just .13 higher than Italy’s Carolina Kostner, the silver medalist.
“I had heard Carolina’s scores before I skated, so I knew that she did well,” she said. “(Coach) Jason Dungjen told me that I had won. It was a relief to see that it was just barely enough to win.”
Kostner had the performance of the afternoon, landing five clean triple jumps in her Mozart free skate. Though she did not attempt a Lutz in the competition, Kostner put much of her technical content in the second half of her program to increase the value of each jumps. She admitted to feeling nervous before her skate today.
“I slept very bad last night,” she said with a laugh. “I kept thinking about what I had to do today in my program, and I was up very early this morning because of the time change. I really wanted to do my program, and when I finally did it, I was able to really enjoy it.”
A notorious late starter, Kostner was satisfied with her performance, and is looking forward to working to add technical content as the season progresses.
“Usually my first competition of the season isn’t so good,” said the 24-year-old. “I was surprised it went so well. My season is usually like a roller coaster, and starting out so well this season gives me confidence to go home to start working on the harder jumps. It’s really motivating to start with a good skate.”
Kostner finished the competition with 177.35 points.
The surprise bronze medalist—Viktoria Helgesson—earned not only her first Grand Prix medal, but also the first in Swedish history.
“I’m very proud to make it this far in skating,” Helgesson said. “I hope that there will be a lot more (medals) for me in the future.”
Helgesson finished in fifth place in both the short program and free skate, but was able to move up with consistency of placement over other competitors who seesawed in the competition. The 23-year-old landed only two clean triple jumps in her Sunset Boulevard program, but her total of 145.75 points was more than enough to propel her to her first podium.
“This is a really big thing for me,” she said with a huge smile. “I’m really happy to be here. I have improved my programs so much, and I think that hard work is what led me here.”
Haruka Imai from Japan hung on to fourth place after a disastrous free skate, edging out Russia’s Ksenia Makarova, who finished in fifth. American Caroline Zhang, who stood in third after yesterday’s short program, had the worst free skate of the day. She fell three times and faded to sixth place overall.
“That was just plain stupid,” said Zhang. “I really don’t know what happened. I’ve been doing it clean in practice, so it was just a bunch of stupid mistakes that got to me. And each one throughout the program… when I started thinking about the mistakes, each one just got worse.”
Georgia’s Elene Gedevanishvili finished third in the free skate, but had to settle for seventh place overall. USA’s Joelle Forte, Italy’s Valentina Marchei, and Helgesson’s younger sister Joshi, finished in eighth, ninth, and 10th, respectively.
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