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Czisny looking for perfect end to dream season

Grand Prix Final champion feeling good heading to Moscow

Alissa Czisny is looking to improve on her results from past world championships.
Alissa Czisny is looking to improve on her results from past world championships. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/21/2011) - After placing tenth at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Alissa Czisny made big changes: new coaches, refined jump technique, new attitude.

So far this season, it's paid off with three big wins, including a second Skate Canada title, Grand Prix Final gold and another U.S. championship.

Now, she thinks she's ready to take on worlds. Detroit's most elegant citizen will hit the ice in Moscow for her first practice April 27.

"I'm happy to finally be heading off after the long delay, but actually thankful for the extra time to prepare more, to make everything that much better," Czisny told reporters on a teleconference yesterday.

All week long, North American skaters have said that the month's delay holding the 2011 ISU World Championships has helped their preparation. The competition was originally scheduled to take place in Tokyo in March, but due to Japan's tragic earthquake, was rescheduled to start April 24 in Moscow.

Czisny added her name to the list, saying run-throughs at her training base at the Detroit Skating Club have been "very good."

"I do have placement goals for myself in Moscow, but my biggest goal is to really go out and skate my very best, improve my personal best scores this season and come away from the competition satisfied," she said.

"I would also like to help the U.S. earn three [ladies] spots back for next year."

The first season Czisny was U.S. champion, in 2009, she placed 11th at worlds after a disappointing short program. Added to Rachael Flatt's fifth-place finish, the result was not strong enough for the U.S to earn three ladies spots for the 2010 Olympics or worlds.

For the U.S. to earn three ladies spots for the 2012 worlds, Czisny and U.S. silver medalist Flatt's finishes in Moscow must not total more than 13.

The soft-spoken Czisny isn't making any vows this time around, but after changing coaches last spring to train with Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, she's encouraged by her results so far.

"There have actually been a few performances I was really satisfied with this year," she said. "The first was my [winning] long program at Skate Canada, for several reasons, but the biggest one being I was able to overcome my past fears. After everything I'd gone through, changing coaches, [I was able to] go out and prove to myself I was on the right track.

"Also my performances at the Grand Prix Final, because it was such a prestigious event, and I felt a lot of pressure on myself...The final one was nationals. I think my performances there were probably some of my best performances ever in competition."

The only big break in Czisny's confident new form came at her last competition, the 2011 ISU Four Continents Championships in Taipei. There, jump troubles relegated her to fifth place.

Whatever troubled her in Taipei, Czisny and her coaches haven't made any adjustments to her programs, beyond, the skater says, "adding more sparkle" to her free skate costume.

"It's really just now about making everything that's there, better," she said. "It's not really the time to make anything new."

Czisny, who has a model's good looks, was in demand for shows this winter, but never considered skipping worlds for the touring circuit. She said she was far more anxious to improve upon her worlds results, which also include a 15th place in 2007.

"I think for me the most important thing this year was worlds," she said. "As much as I would love doing those exhibitions and shows -- and I love performing -- the most important thing was preparing for worlds. It wasn't the most difficult decision I've ever made."

Another big decision awaits: will the two-time U.S. champion, now 23 and a college graduate, continue on to try to qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics? She said she is taking it one year at a time.

"I'm pretty sure I am going to continue skating [next season] because I love it so much," she said. "I gave myself this year to see if I wanted to continue, and this year has been successful, and I feel like I have more in me.

"It's so far away until Sochi; it's hard for me to think about more than a year at a time in my career. Obviously I would love to continue on and go to the Sochi Olympics, but I'm not going to make any commitment to another quadrennial."

Detour to Berlin: Czisny leaves for Europe on Apr. 22nd, but she isn't going straight to Moscow. Dungjen, a two-time U.S. pair champion (with Kyoko Ina), is taking part in an ISU Pair Skating Development Training Seminar for Coaches and Pair Skaters in Berlin April 23 - May 1. Czisny will train for several days in Berlin, and will then meet her other coach, Sato, in Moscow. Dungjen will do as much of the seminar as he can before joining the two in Moscow.