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Refreshed Czisny claims victory in Canada

Makarova takes silver; Phaneuf falters

Alissa Czisny's gold-medal finish at Skate Canada served notice that she's back on her game.
Alissa Czisny's gold-medal finish at Skate Canada served notice that she's back on her game. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/30/2010) - Alissa Czisny may wish all of her competitions were held in Canada.

The 23-year-old first made her mark in St. John's, Newfoundland, when she won the 2005 Skate Canada title. In 2008, she won bronze, and in 2009, silver.

Here in Kingston, the 2009 U.S. champion served noticed she's back in the competitive mix with a winning free skate that included five clean triple jumps, as well as a stunning closing layback spin that earned +3 grades of execution (GOEs) from eight of the nine judges.

"I felt really good tonight; I'm glad I was able to show the world the improvements I'm trying to make," Czisny said.

Russian champion Ksenia Makarova wobbled on a few of her triples but placed second in the free and took the silver medal. Amelie Lacoste, fifth in Canada last season, won bronze.

After placing tenth at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Czisny left longtime coach Julianne Berlin to train under Yuka Sato and her husband, Jason Dungjen. The skater and her coaches have focused on improving the consistency of her jumps and solidifying her technique.

"Every day, I go home thankful that I'm working with Yuka and Jason," she said. "They make me feel like I can forget the past and make a name for myself again. They believe in me and believed I could start over again."

Performing to George Winston's lyrical "Winter and Spring," Czisny hit her opening triple Lutz and triple flip combinations, as well as a triple toe; triple loop; and solo triple flip. Her only major mistake was falling on a second triple toe. The program gained 116.42 points and she finished with 172.37 overall.

"Obviously, judging from tonight, Alissa is still one of the best out there," Dungjen said.

"She is so elegant; she is almost, for lack of a better word, a throwback to a time when skating was all about beauty, yet she mixes it so well with the athletic aspect of the sport."

Makarova had a solid program to Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," including an impressive opening triple toe-triple toe combination. It was a good recovery from her disappointing performance at Finlandia Trophy a few weeks ago.

"I did what I had to do and I did pretty much everything I planned to do," the 17-year-old, who trains in Hackensack under Galina Zmievskaya and Viktor Petrenko, said.

"This really gives me confidence for my next events. I know what I can do to bounce back."

Skating to Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade, Lacoste opened with a double Axel sequence and went on to land three triples. Although she was only fifth in the short and fourth in the free, her combined total of 157.26 was good enough for bronze.

"It's a big surprise," Lacoste said. "My goal coming here was top five, so this is a good position for me. It is really going to fill me with confidence for my next event, Skate America."

Overnight leader Cynthia Phaneuf faltered, falling on two triple Lutzes and popping an intended triple loop into a single. She placed seventh in the free and fourth overall with 156.24 points.

"I never felt like I had my feet under me," the Canadian silver medalist, fifth at worlds last season, said. "I don't seem to be at by best at Skate Canada. I don't think I'll be coming here next year."

Agnes Zawadzki, third after the short, dropped to sixth. The U.S. junior champion fell on her opening double Axel and turning both of her intended triple Lutzes into doubles.

"I have to work on getting the elements more consistent," said the 16-year-old, who was competing at her first senior international. "I feel ready to compete against the best; I just have to work harder."

"Experience is what you get after you need it," Zawadzki's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "She had a lot of adrenaline, and she didn't know how to handle it quite yet. This was way below what she does in training every day."

Another Zakrajsek pupil, Alexe Gilles, also had jump troubles, alhough she landed a fine triple Lutz-double toe and a three jump combination of triple toe-double toe-double loop. The 2008 U.S. junior champion placed 11th.