Czisny triumphs as stellar season continues

Flatt locks up silver medal; Nagasu falls to bronze

Alissa Czisny soaks in the applause after her superb free skate on Saturday night.
Alissa Czisny soaks in the applause after her superb free skate on Saturday night. (Michelle Harvath)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(01/29/2011) - This time around, Alissa Czisny made it look easy.

When the 23-year-old won her first U.S. title in 2009, she fell on a triple Lutz and doubled another intended triple. Third in the free skate, she was a controversial choice for gold.

Saturday night in Greensboro was a different story. A rejuvenated Czisny floated through her jumps, including a triple Lutz-double toe and triple flip-double loop-double toe combination, in a spellbinding free to George Winston's lyrical "Winter into Spring."

The only slightly jarring note was a miraculous save on a low-landed triple loop, which was judged as being under-rotated by the technical panel.

"In terms of winning a title this one definitely means more to me," Czisny said. "The first one is always the first one, but to win this one with two good performances is sweeter.

"It went so fast, I landed the last triple toe before I was ready for the program to be done."

The judges -- and the Greensboro crowd -- also may have thought the program ended too soon. The panel awarded Czisny 128.74 points and the crowd granted her an extended standing ovation. She ended with an impressive 191.24 points overall.

"To have everybody standing and knowing that they were here for me every step of the way -- it was pretty cool to do it for them as well as for me," she said.

Czisny's return from a dismal 10th-place at the 2010 U.S. championships and rebirth as a "new skater," as she repeatedly refers to herself, began after the 2010 Olympics when she called former Japanese champion Yuka Sato and asked to train under Sato and her husband, former U.S. pair champion Jason Dungjen.

"She was very sad, very lost," Sato said. "People like to say she is mentally not very strong, but I don't like to say that. Once she sets her mind she is very strong. She was kind of convinced by everyone else's words that she wasn't strong."

Dungjen said from day one, the skater was willing to do whatever it took to get back on top.

"We went back to basics, working on single jumps, double jumps, steps," he said. "We broke things down. We never had any resistance -- sometimes frustration, but never resistance."

Czisny, who also won the Grand Prix Final in December, will now be challenged to carry her new attitude and new technique to the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo in March. Her two prior outings have been disappointing: she placed 15th in 2007 and 11th in 2009.

"This whole season is me as a new skater, and I've been able to be a lot more consistent with my competitions, doing what I have to do when I have to do it, and I intend to continue that at worlds," she said.

Joy for Czisny meant disappointment for Rachael Flatt. Skating to Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, the defending champion opened with double Axel, triple toe combination, but the toe was judged under rotated. Although she hit five other triples, she also doubled her first Lutz.

Flatt was second in the free skate and second overall with 183.38 points.

"It certainly wasn't my best," Flatt said. "I've been training clean programs at home, and I did two clean long programs while I was here.

"I guess I was a little bit tired. I had to skate pretty late [last in the final group], so that was a bit tough. I guess I need to work on that a little bit."

While Flatt lost her U.S. title, she made her third world team, grabbing the second spot in the U.S. contingent that will compete at worlds. Flatt placed fifth (2009) and ninth (2010) at her two prior outings.

With only two spots available, Mirai Nagasu has been left out in the cold.

The 2008 U.S. champion, who placed seventh at worlds last season and fourth at the 2010 Olympics, lost her chance for another world team when she staggered out of double Axel and two-footed the landing of a flying sit spin, gaining no points for the element.

Nagasu, who began the evening with a razor-thin lead, placed third in the free with 113.91 points and third overall with 177.26.

"I can't believe I messed up on a spin! A spin," Nagasu said. "I didn't attack the program as much as I wanted to. In the beginning I was nervous. I'm a perfectionist, so if I'm not satisfied, or every single run through isn't perfect, I let that get to me instead of going out there and attacking. I just let my nerves get the best of me."

Agnes Zawadzki -- who, like Flatt, trains in Colorado Springs under Tom Zakrajsek -- wasn't perfect, falling on a triple loop and doubling one of her Lutzes. Still, her program was a big step up from her free skates on the Grand Prix circuit, and she placed fourth in the free and fourth overall with 173.24.

Christina Gao opened her free with a triple flip, triple toe combination -- the only triple, triple of the event - but under rotated a triple flip and had a few awkward landings. She was sixth in the free and fifth overall, the same spot she gained last season.

Ashley Wagner, last season's bronze medalist, lost her chance for the world team when she fell on a triple flip in her short program. While her free skate was better, it was too little, too late and she placed sixth with 165.36.