Pretty in pink: Czisny glides to lead in short

Kostner lands triple-triple; Zhang skates into third

Alissa Czisny won the short program by almost four points at 2011 Skate America.
Alissa Czisny won the short program by almost four points at 2011 Skate America. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(10/23/2011) - If she keeps skating like this, Alissa Czisny will bring home her first Skate America title.

The two-time U.S. champion glided to a 3.97-point lead over Carolina Kostner with a clean, secure short program, and she promises even bigger things for Sunday's free skate.

Suitably attired in pale pink, Czisny floated through the lilting "La Vie en Rose (Life in Pink)," hitting an effortless triple Lutz-double toe, caressing the ice with delicate steps and gaining Level 4s for all three of her spins.

Her only flaw was an edge call for an incorrect outside-edge takeoff on a triple flip. She earned an impressive early-season score of 64.20.

"I was really nervous going into the program, it being the first of the season," the 24-year-old from Detroit said.

"I love the program, and I felt like it was okay, but not my best technically or artistically."

Czisny, who placed fifth at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, told reporters last week she plans a seven-triple free skate, including a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. She hasn't changed her mind.

"I'm still planning that," she said. "I did not do a triple-triple in the short [in order to] lay down a good, clean short, but I'm trying seven triples in the long."

Kostner served up an edgier kind of elegance in her short, turning and twisting to Shostakovich's "Allegretto from trio no. 2," hitting a triple toe-triple toe combination along the way.

The world bronze medalist faltered slightly on the landing of a triple loop and slipped on some footwork but recovered quickly to earn 60.23 points.

"I was nervous tonight," Kostner said. "Last year, I always struggled with pain in my knee, and I never really got into my perfect shape. Worlds ended one month later [than usual], and I took a lot of time to recover from the pain, so I only started [training] in the middle of July.

"I want to go with the flow and improve step by step with every competition."

Caroline Zhang, the 2007 world junior champion who placed 12th at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, had her best Grand Prix short program result in years, placing third with a solid routine featuring a triple flip-double toe combination and triple loop.

"The journey back to get to this point was hard, but I realized I loved skating no matter how I do," said Zhang, still only 18.

"That gave me the confidence to keep training."

Joelle Forte, the 25-year-old competing in her first-ever Grand Prix, sits sixth.

The ninth-place finisher at the 2011 U.S. Championships, the Fordham University graduate had a wild landing on her triple Lutz and improvised a triple Salchow-double toe combination to compensate.

"I felt really good. I wasn't nervous -- I was really calm," she said.

"The Lutz was so much higher [than I thought it would be] that I didn't know when the ice was going to get there, but I was able to complete the combination on the Salchow, so I was happy."