When Alissa Czisny walked out of the Spokane Arena in Spokane, Wash., in January, she knew she may have just competed for the last time. Disheartened by a 10th place finish at the 2010 U.S. Championships, only a year after winning her first national championship, and a failed bid for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the then 22-year-old was ready to move on.
Or so she thought in those days following the nationals.
“At the end of last season, I was disappointed with myself and how I had skated that season. I didn’t reach the goals that I had set for myself, and I questioned whether or not I wanted to continue competitively skating,” Czisny said. “After taking some time to reflect back and to also think about my future, I decided that I enjoyed skating and competing too much to quit right now. I love to skate, and I want to continue to have a career in skating. I decided, however, that I needed to make some changes in my skating career, in order to continue to grow and improve.”
With her trademark smile restored, Czisny is back in competition this week at Skate Canada, Oct. 29-31, in Kingston, Ontario, hoping the off-season changes prove she still has a place in this sport.
The biggest change came in February. Just weeks after her disappointing nationals brought her season to an abrupt end, Czisny announced that she was parting ways with longtime coach Julie Berlin, who began coaching her when she was 11 years old.
Czisny later joined forces with familiar faces from the rink. She now works with 1994 World Champion Yuka Sato, who was a secondary coach under Berlin, and Sato’s husband Jason Dungjen, a U.S. Champion in pair skating. Sato and Dungjen also coach two-time U.S. Champion.
“I really enjoying working with Yuka and Jason,” she said. “I’m so honored that they have agreed to work with me, and every day, I learn so much from them. They are not only experienced competitors and performers, but they are also wonderful coaches with so much knowledge. Since I’ve started working with them, we have made many changes to my skating, beginning with changing and improving my jump technique, and working on all other aspects of my skating, as well.”
For the first time since she made her senior debut in the 2001-02 season, Czisny has both a new short program and a new free skate, electing to leave behind the memories of last season.
“One of the reasons that I chose to have two completely new programs this year was that I wanted a fresh start, since I am now working with new coaches,” Czisny said. “Also, I felt that having two new programs would really push me to grow in my performance. I worked with two different choreographers this year as well.”
Czisny worked with Lori Nichol and David Wilson in recent seasons. This year, she recruited three-time U.S. Champion ice dancer Renee Roca, who now works as a choreographer with the Stars on Ice tour, to choreograph her short program.
“My short program was done by Renee Roca and is to a beautifully classical piece of music from the Violin Concerto in D, Opus 35, by Erich Wolfgang Korngold,” Czisny said. “Renee had choreographed one of my show programs for the Stars on Ice and I really enjoyed working with her. I loved the tour program that she had choreographed for me, so I wanted her to choreograph a competition program for me.”
Czisny worked with retired Italian ice dancer Pasquale Camerlengo on her new free skate.
“My long program this year was choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo, who teaches at the Detroit Skating Club. While I had seen Pasquale’s choreography for several years, I had not yet gotten the chance to work with him,” Czisny said. “I was very excited to work with him for my long program this year, and he came up with a great long program for me. The music is from George Winston’s album ‘Winter into Spring’.”
Unlike with her previous choreographers, Czisny can rely on Camerlengo to help her progress the program through the season. “It’s also very beneficial to me, that I am able to work with Pasquale on a weekly basis, when we are both in town at the same time, of course, because we are based at the same rink,” she said.
Czisny’s choreography is not the only on-ice change for her.
“My costumes will be very different this year from my usual costumes. I can’t really give you hints about the costumes, yet, as they are not finished but I’m hoping they will be finished soon, for Skate Canada,” she said last week. “Yuka and my mom both helped with the designing of the costumes and I’m very excited about how they will turn out.”
Following Skate Canada, Czisny will compete at Trophee Eric Bompard, Nov. 26-28, in Paris, France. She hopes to compete in December at the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China, but that’s not her focus.
“My goals for this Grand Prix season are to improve on my personal best scores and performances,” Czisny said. “I’ve made many changes to my skating, especially to my jump technique, so I want to show those improvements and changes at my Grand Prix events.”
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