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Renewed Czisny ready to return to ice in Omaha

Two-time national champion talks about bouncing back from disappointment, hopes for redemption

Alissa Czisny is attempting to regain the form she showed in winning 2011 Skate America.
Alissa Czisny is attempting to regain the form she showed in winning 2011 Skate America. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(01/03/2013) - For Alissa Czisny, the past several months could hardly be described as "the life in pink."

After starting 2011-12 with gold and silver at her two Grand Prix assignments, and then placing second at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Czisny's season took a turn for the worse. She managed just a third-place finish at the lightly regarded International Challenge Cup and followed that by coming in 22nd at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships.

Unbeknownst to the skater and her coaches, she competed in Nice, France, with an undiagnosed injury. (After the event, Czisny said she would not have gone to worlds if she had known she was injured.)

Last May, an MRI revealed that Czisny had a torn labrum in her left hip, and after undergoing surgery June 6 in Nashville, Tenn., she began the recovery period. This season, she received an assignment to the NHK Trophy but withdrew in order to continue her rehabilitation.

As recently as late 2012, there were doubts about whether she would participate in the 2013 U.S. Championships, which will be held Jan. 20-27 in Omaha, Neb. These doubts were dispelled when Czisny confidently and happily said: "Yes, I will be competing at the U.S. nationals!"

Icenetwork.com talked with Czisny about her recovery period, difficult times in her career and new hopes.

Icenetwork.com: A hip injury is not an easy thing to deal with. What was the most difficult part of the recovery?

Czisny: This hip injury marked the first time in my career that I was sidelined with a major injury; consequently, this whole process has been a new experience for me. Being off the ice for four months and being unable to use my hip effectively (and, by association, most of the muscles surrounding that area) were two of the most difficult parts of the recovery period.

However, learning from those, I have become increasingly grateful for my ability to skate again and have tried to be more patient with myself during the whole recovering process.

Icenetwork.com: What are your thoughts on the upcoming U.S. championships?

Czisny: I tried my best to be prepared for the NHK Trophy in late November, but there was just not enough time to recover and prepare for that competition. However, now I have had a few more months to recover and train for nationals. I'm looking forward to competing again!

Icenetwork.com: Last season for you had its ups and downs. How did you cope with all the difficulties, and whose support was the most valuable during the not-so-easy times?

Czisny: Last season was a very trying season. While it started out decently, my season become increasingly frustrating as it went along. I could not understand what was going wrong, and I kept trying my best each day, kept searching for the answers to my questions. When I thought things were turning around for the better, I would have another disappointment. My season grew increasingly worse, no matter how hard I tried...and we all know how spectacularly terrible my season ended!

It took a lot of courage to keep my head up and keep going after worlds. Fortunately, there were a few people who stood by me and were there for me: my family, who always supports me and loves me unconditionally; my coaches, who didn't give up on me; and a few close friends, who hugged me, supported me and made me laugh again.

Icenetwork.com: Was that period similar to what you experienced after the 2010 U.S. Championships?

Czisny: While both periods of time were heartbreaking, they were each different in their own ways. The part of the experience of last season that was most difficult was that I thought I finally had the pieces of the puzzle in place: My previous season was fairly successful, and my coaches and I were building on the foundation we had set.

It seemed as though I was doing everything that I could possibly do to make the season good, but nothing seemed to be going right. It is hard to face the possibility of not knowing or understanding what went wrong, when you know that you tried to do everything right.

Icenetwork.com: Sports fans have expectations of an athlete's performance at competitions. When those expectations are not met, they can become critical of that athlete. What do you think about it?

Czisny: No matter what we do, what we accomplish, what we fail at, how we act, or even who we are, we will always face criticisms from somewhere, from someone. As athletes, we face an even broader range of criticisms coming our way, because we have the opportunity and responsibility to perform in front of many people.

And it's easy to criticize athletes; after all, we are the ones who put ourselves out in the spotlight, in front of so many people. Yet, what sports fans don't always tangibly understand is the sacrifice and dedication, the hard work and heartbreaks, the long hours and hurting bodies, the courage and fortitude that it takes for athletes to give everything they have for those few minutes of competition.

Some athletes might long for the glory of praising comments, might ache to hear the criticizing judgments, yet at the end of the day, all of us athletes can only answer to ourselves -- and God -- whether or not we have done our very best and have no regrets. We can't control how others critique us, but we can be in charge of our own efforts and our own behaviors.

Icenetwork.com: Do you feel that fans sometimes don't understand that sports are, for lack of a better term, just sports? That they're a big part of an athlete's life but not the whole life?

Czisny: For us athletes, skating is just a sport, yet it is so much more than that. It is our passion, our livelihood, our way of life. But at the same time, we must also remember to keep perspective: Skating is only a sport, a game we play for a short duration of our lives, and it is not everything in life! We may fail or we may succeed -- and most likely, we will do some of each -- yet, ultimately, our results should not and cannot determine who we are inside.

Icenetwork.com: What are your programs for this season?

Czisny: I'm excited about my programs this season! My coaches and I decided to keep my short program from last season (Edith Piaf's "La Vie en rose"), a decision which I'm thrilled about, since I love that program. My long program is choreographed by Marina Zoueva, and I really enjoy skating this program! (Author's note: Czisny hasn't announced her free skate music yet, and she wants to try to keep it quiet until the U.S. championships.)

Icenetwork.com: What aspects of your skating are you planning to change?

Czisny: This season has been a completely new experience for me. I have had to start over again, working to regain my strength and control and stamina, as well as working on all the aspects of my skating. Being off the ice for four months doesn't help one's jump consistency either! Yet, despite having to go back to basics, I've enjoyed the process of regaining my skating abilities. And I've definitely become more appreciative of just how intricately an athlete's body must work in order to meet the physical demands placed on it.