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Flatt, Wagner impress at Liberty Open

Czisny shines in spins and spirals but falters on jumps

Junior ladies world champion, Rachael Flatt.
Junior ladies world champion, Rachael Flatt. (Paul Harvath)

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By Liz Leamy and Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/18/2008) - She's a world junior champion, but Rachael Flatt is anything but a one-dimensional athlete.

The Colorado Springs-based skater, who turns 16 on Tuesday, just attended a National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Boston. There, the focus was more on scholastic achievement and clinical research than Lutzes and flips.

The 10-day trip set her training back a bit, but it was well worth it.

"Sports science really interests me; I find it exciting," Flatt said. "I might want a career in medicine some day."

The teen got back down to business three weeks ago, polishing her short program. Choreographed by Lori Nichol in late May, it is set to Henry Mancini's familiar "Moon River" from the motion soundtrack of Breakfast at Tiffany's. Skating in Liberty Open's senior ladies short program group B, Flatt opened with a solid triple flip-double loop (worth eight points) and triple Lutz, followed by a strong Level 4 combination spin and level 3 straight-line steps. Her Level 4 spiral sequence earned +1 Grades of Execution (GOEs) from all the judges, and she ended the event with 58.94 points.

"We've been working on all aspects of my skating," Flatt said. "Of course, there were a couple of things that could be improved. I'd like a bigger double Axel, and more speed and flow -- all of that good stuff."

Skating to an upbeat medley, Blake Rosenthal (SC of Wilmington) hit a strong opening triple flip-double toe combination to take second place with 54.88 points.

"The music is kind of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers; it really fits her bubbly personality," Rosenthal's coach, Karl Kurtz, said. "I thought she did a lovely job."

Angelyn Nguyen (Los Angeles FSC) was a surprising third, earning 52.68 points for a program featuring excellent spins and a strong double Axel.

"I felt really good, and it's been an amazing experience to be here," Nguyen, who will be a freshman at UCLA this fall, said. "For me skating is fun so I try to have a good time out there."

2007 U.S. bronze medalist Alissa Czisny hit gorgeous positions in her Level 4 spins and spiral sequence, but faltered on her jumps.

Performing to Saint- Saëns' "The Swan," Czisny reduced an intended triple Lutz-double toe combination to a double-double and fell on her triple flip attempt. She is in fourth place overall with 49.83 points.

"Alissa needs to do these [summer] events to help her deal with the mental part of competing," Julianne Berlin, Czisny's coach, said. "It's a matter of learning how to compete; everything else is there. She's got all the [skating] skills she needs.

"She's worked with [1988 Olympic champion] Brian Boitano a couple of times since [2008] U.S. nationals and plans to see him again in October. It's a mentorship with him."

Czisny, who placed ninth at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, has been assigned to Skate Canada this fall.

Senior Ladies Short Program Group A

Ashley Wagner is back and better than ever, based on her short program performance today.

This afternoon, the 17-year-old took home top honors in the senior ladies short program group A, scoring 59.29, nearly 10 points ahead of the 13-member field.

"It's a good start for me," Wagner, adding that she decided to compete here even though her program is just a few weeks old. "We just put the combination spin in three days ago."

The 2008 U.S. bronze medalist is rebounding from a disappointing 16th-place finish at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in March. Several weeks ago, she began training with Priscilla Hill in Wilmington, Del. For the past six years, she had skated in Alexandria, Va. under Shirley Hughes.

"We have been training so hard from day one," Wagner said. "Right now, we're just working on my basic skating skills; it's back-to-basics 101."

Wagner's short, choreographed by Phillip Mills to music from the motion picture soundtrack "Somewhere in Time," was fast, fluid and technically proficient. She hit a solid triple Lutz-double loop; triple flip; and double Axel. (The skater did not receive an edge deduction on her Lutz, something that has troubled her in the past.) Her lovely layback spin gained Level 4 and was awarded +1 and +2 GOEs.

Time has helped Wagner gain a healthy perspective on her performance at worlds.

"Watching all of those other skaters, some of them had the "it" factor and I didn't quite have it yet," she said. "I'm shooting for the 2010 Olympics. It's better to have gotten that part the experience out of my system-that's how I look at it."

Alexe Gilles (Broadmoor SC) was second in the group with 50.93 points.

In her program to Debussy's "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair," created by David Wilson, she did a soaring triple Lutz-double toe and double Axel, but singled a planned triple flip.

This represents the rookie senior-level season for the 16-year-old Gilles, who is the reigning U.S. junior ladies champ. She kicked off things off at the Broadmoor Open in June.

"This was a better performance than Broadmoor," Gilles said. "Every time I skate this program, I think I get better. I'm happy because I got awarded for most of my levels."

Brittney Rizo (SC of Boston) was third with 50.65, including the second-highest program component score of the event, 22.65. The U.S. junior bronze medalist hit a solid triple toe-triple toe combination and strong double Axel in her program to Michael W. Smith's "The Giving." Although she fell on a triple Lutz, she executed a Level 4 spiral sequence as well as fast and well-positioned layback and flying camel spins.