JAMIE M. BLANCHARD
Figure Skaters Online
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Alissa Czisny won the 2011 U.S. Championship in Greensboro, N.C., only a year after a poor showing at the national event left her considering retirement. It is the third major win of the season for Czisny, the 2009 U.S. Champion, following December’s Grand Prix Final victory and October’s Skate Canada.
Not bad for someone who had to qualify for the 2011 U.S. Championships by skating in the Sectional Championships.
Czisny won her second national title with 191.24 points. Last year’s U.S. Champion Rachael Flatt (183.38) finished second to Czisny, just as she did when Czisny claimed her first title, while 2008 U.S. Champion Mirai Nagasu (177.26) placed third. Rookie Agnes Zawadzki took the pewter medal with 173.84.
“I was really nervous before I went out there,” Czisny said. “I knew exactly what I had to do. Before every jump I thought about what I was here for and what my goals were. I fought for every single thing.”
Czisny and Flatt will likely be named to the World Championship team while the competitors for the Four Continents Championship, Feb. 15-20 in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei, and the World Junior Championships, Feb. 28-March 6 in Gangneung City, Korea, have not been determined. Worlds is March 21-27 in Tokyo, Japan.
Skating to selections from “Winter into Spring” by George Winston, Czisny put her critics to rest by performing six triple jumps, with only the solo triple loop being called for under rotation. Her gorgeous flying camel spin and change foot combination spin received a Level 4 while her program ending layback spin was marked a Level 3.
“It went so fast,” Czisny said. “I landed the last triple toe before I was ready for the program to be done.”
Czisny had a rough time following her 2009 U.S. Championship victory, finishing ninth at Four Continents and 11th at the Worlds, both times behind other U.S. competitors. She medaled at 2009 Skate Canada but took fourth at NHK Trophy. And then she barely made the Top 10 at the national championship, not even earning consideration for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Instead of retiring following the 2010 nationals, Czisny left her coaches in February, then announced in April that she would be under the direction of 1994 World Champion Yuka Sato and her husband Jason Dungjen, a U.S. Pairs Champion with Kyoko Ina. She returned in the 2010-11 season with a new direction — it led her to gold at Skate Canada, bronze at Trophee Eric Bompard and gold at the Grand Prix Final.
And now, Czisny has another national title.
She received a standing ovation for both programs in Greensboro. “To have everybody standing and knowing that they were here for me every step of the way – it was pretty cool to do it for them as well as for me,” she said.
Coming into Greensboro, Flatt admitted that she was in need of rejuvenation, mainly because of a foot injury that led her to finish in last place at the Grand Prix Final. A silver medal at nationals should put her back on track toward her goal of winning a medal at the World Championship.
Flatt’s free skate featured five clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-double toe and a triple flip-double toe-double loop. The second jump in her double Axel-triple toe was under rotated. Not bad for Flatt, who improvised her program content after turning a planned triple Lutz-triple toe into a solo double Lutz early on in the program.
“It certainly wasn’t my best,” Flatt said. “I’ve been training clean programs at home and I did two clean long programs while I was here. Obviously, it was a little bit disappointing.”
Nagasu, the winner of the short program, started her skate with a solid triple Lutz-double toe and followed that with a double Axel-double toe. She was sailing through her program but then little mistakes began to creep in, a step out here and then a disastrous flying sit spin that earned her no points.
“I’m a perfectionist, so if I’m not satisfied, or every single run through isn’t perfect, I let that get to me instead of going out there and attacking,” Nagasu said. “I just let my nerves get the best of me.”
Christina Gao (167.20) remained in fifth place although she was sixth in the free skate, falling on an under rotated triple flip. Two-time U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner, who was the alternate to the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, pulled up sixth place. She was seventh in the short program and fifth in the free skate for 165.36 points overall.
Vanessa Lam dropped from sixth to seventh with a fall on an under rotated triple flip near the end of the program. Other results include Melissa Bulanhagui in tenth (144.53); Caroline Zhang in 12th (140.95); and Alexe Gilles in 14th (123.75).
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