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Czisny shines to "Dr. Zhivago" at Liberty

Former U.S. bronze medalist wins free skate group; Flatt is second

Alissa Czisny.
Alissa Czisny. (Getty Images)

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By Liz Leamy, special to icenetwork.com
(07/19/2008) - It wasn't flawless, but Alissa Czisny captivated the crowd with her enchanting free skate to the romantic motion picture soundtrack, Dr. Zhivago.

The elegant skater earned 103.73 points and first place in the senior ladies free skate B group at the Liberty Open Saturday.

Czisny's performance was such a hit, she practically had to fight off a posse of young autograph seekers and well wishers when she got off the ice. As she graciously signed her name, she explained how happy she felt to be back to form.

"I'm here to learn to compete again," the smiling skater said. "It's all about staying in the moment -- it's as simple as that but as hard as that."

In January, Czisny had a disappointing ninth-place finish at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The prior year, she had taken home the bronze medal and even won the free skate.

"It was at a tough time for her," Czisny's coach, Julianne Berlin, said. "So far this year, all we've done is work."

Last year, Czisny performed on the Champions on Ice tour, which took some important time away from her training.

"She didn't have the summer to train, and I think that made a big difference," Berlin said.

Today's free skate, designed by David Wilson, embodied the romantic sweep and yearning tenderness of Pasternak's tale of a doctor/poet torn between two women in the midst of the Russian revolution.

Czisny opened with a pristine triple Lutz-double toe combination before falling on her second jump, a (downgraded) triple flip. Her next maneuver, an intended triple loop, was also downgraded by the technical panel.

From there on, it was clear sailing, as the 21-year-old skater landed a second triple Lutz; a triple toe-double toe; and two double Axels. She did not attempt a triple Salchow.

"She's more secure with her jump technique," Berlin said. "Everything looks good, but we've been working on the flip. She's a fighter and she'll manage it."

As always with Czisny, jumps were secondary to her signature elegant spins and spiral sequences. She gained Level 4 on both her combination sit spin and layback, and Level 4 for a beautiful spiral sequence featuring a fully extended Charlotte.

"I did much better than [in the short] yesterday, and I just want to keep getting out there," Czisny said.

Rachael Flatt (Broadmoor SC) was second with a graceful, but less-than-perfect free skate to Debussy's "La Mer." She was awarded 82.94 points, more than 20 less than Czisny.

After a flawed opening double Axel, Flatt hit a triple flip-double loop combination and a triple Lutz. In the latter part of her routine, she ran into a bit of a rough patch, doubling a planned triple flip and singling planned triple Lutz and Salchow jumps.

"The program is very new; she just did run-through two-and-a-half weeks ago," Flatt's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "It is not completely ready. She's just getting a feel for figuring out the timing. She's been solid in practice with the jumps.

"This was a fine effort; she is where she needs to be. The score doesn't really matter at this point."

Zakrajsek added that Flatt's in-depth evaluation by U.S. Figure Skating officials will take place at the Colorado Championships later this summer.

Angelyn Nguyen (Los Angeles FSC) was third-best with her free skate to Vanessa Mae's "Storm," earning 70.56 points. She did a triple toe; double Axel; and a Level 4 combination spin, for which she was awarded +1 Grades of Execution (GOEs).

Although Nguyen's intended triple Lutz and triple loop jumps were downgraded, she skated with great speed and style and received a solid 41 points for program components.

"I went in and tried to just do a repeat of yesterday," the 18-year-old Nguyen, who was third in her group's short program event, said.