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Relaxed Czisny hits the ice in Moscow

Berlin stopover leaves U.S. champion refreshed

Alissa Czisny is ready to hit the ice at the world championships.
Alissa Czisny is ready to hit the ice at the world championships. (Renee Felton)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/27/2011) - Alissa Czisny hit the practice rink in Moscow for the first time this morning, looking relaxed and landing the majority of her jump attempts with ease.

She played mostly to a small crowd of U.S. Figure Skating well-wishers and officials. A gaggle or two of journalists had just left building, having watched Yu Na Kim and, earlier, Mao Asada.

"I don't mind being under the radar," Czisny, 23, said. "I came into the season off the radar."

After she placed 10th at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, some thought the sylph-like skater's days as a top competitor were over. Instead, she changed coaches last spring, moving to Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen.

During the 2010-11 Grand Prix season, Czisny re-established herself with wins at Skate Canada and the Final. In January, she capped her comeback with sparkling programs at the 2011 U.S. Championships to reclaim the national title she won in 2009.

"It's a new season for me," Czisny said. "As a skater, I have higher expectations for myself. I'm less focused on past results and focused on what I'm doing now."

The U.S. champion used a two-part travel strategy, arriving in Berlin on April 22 to spend a few days training at the Sport Forum, where Dungjen is taking part in an ISU pairs' seminar. He joins Sato and Czisny in Moscow tomorrow.

"I think it probably helped me," Czisny said. "I am getting adjusted, making sure I have the right technique."

Sato said the Berlin stopover served multiple purposes.

"The majority of the day, Jason [trains] Alissa as her primary coach, and [training in Berlin] also helped Alissa acclimate to the time zone.

"It's been a long wait for the skaters; it's been a forever season. It was nicer for her to get outside her usual training facility for a change of pace and a little refreshment."

Czisny's confident new outlook showed when the normally reserved skater told reporters on a teleconference last week that her big goal was to help the U.S. team earn three world ladies spots for next season. For that to happen, Czisny and U.S. silver medalist Rachael Flatt's placements here cannot total more than 13.

In two prior trips to worlds, in 2007 and 2011, Czisny placed 15th and 11th, respectively.

"I think the U.S. has enough good skaters, it's nice to have three spots," she said. "We definitely have three people to send.

"I think in the past I was feeling my way. There are so many good skaters here, it's not about who is the best, it's more about who is the best that day."

Sato thinks her skater may be rounding into form at just the right time.

"Her skating is really good, but not too good, not over the peak," Sato said. "After a few days of work here, she will be in a really good place. A few weeks ago, we added a little more training [for worlds] and she was a little tired. Now she is starting to come back up."

The only small blemish on Czisny's near-perfect season is a mediocre outing at the 2011 ISU Four Continents Championships in Taipei in February, where she placed fifth. Sato said that, too, was by design.

"After nationals, for her, that was it, one of her best performances," Sato said. "She had no choice but to do that, coming out of being 10th at nationals [the prior season].

"We thought maybe we should not compete [at Four Continents] but when we counted the weeks until worlds, it was too long not to put her out. So our goals changed, we worked on details like spins and small items."

Now, with the five-week delay holding the event, Sato is doubly glad her skater has that extra competition under her belt.

"Her jumps are much better than even earlier in the season," she said. "They are turning with more speed, and are more accurate."