Alissa Czisny rises to women’s crown as Mirai Nagasu and Rachael Flatt fade away
Reporting from Greensboro, N.C.
Alissa Czisny’s first national title had been controversial.
This time, there was no doubt.
When she won two years ago, Czisny did it despite a third-place free skate that included just three clean triple jumps, fewest by a U.S. champion since 1993. Many felt the judges propped Czisny onto the top step of the podium by inflating marks for her artistry.
Saturday, before a sellout crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum, Czisny deservedly topped the field on both the technical and artistic sides of the score sheet.
That allowed her to erase Mirai Nagasu’s small lead after the short program and win in a runaway, with 191.24 points to 183.38 for defending champion Rachael Flatt and 177.26 for Nagasu.
It also allowed Czisny to erase memories of her 2010 nationals, when she tumbled from champion to 10th, and it helped validate her decision not to leave the sport on such a poor note.
“To be able to come back after everything that happened last year, to really start fresh as a skater, confirmed I made the right choices for my career,” Czisny said.
She became the first woman with more than one U.S. title since Michelle Kwan won her ninth in 2005 and only the second multiple winner since 1990.
“This title definitely means more to me,” Czisny said. “To win with two good performances made this one a lot sweeter.”
Now Nagasu, 17, will spend a year trying to forget how her nervous free skate kept her from being on the U.S team for next month’s World Championships only a season after finishing as the leading U.S. skater at the Olympics and worlds. She had serious flaws on four elements — three jumps and a totally botched spin.
“I let my nerves get the best of me,” Nagasu said. “It’s not like my career is over. I’ll take the bronze medal and run away.”
Flatt also was underwhelming. She called the performance disappointing.
“It was a bit of a rough skate,” Flatt said. “I’m glad I have got a few more competitions ahead of me this season.”
Czisny landed six triple jumps — one slightly under-rotated — and displayed her usual captivating elegance in spins and footwork. That she did not fall also was significant.
Leaving her longtime coach after last season to work with Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen began the turnaround for Czisny.
“They believed in me at a point where maybe not too many people believed in me,” she said.
The next indication of her transformation could come at worlds, where she has previously finished 11th and 15th.
“I think this whole season is me as a new skater,” Czisny said. “I have been able to be a lot more consistent, doing what I have to do when I have to do it, and I plan to do the same thing at worlds.”
Nagasu felt the two months of training time she lost to a stress fracture last fall took more of a toll than she realized — especially after a whirlwind 2010 season.
“Considering all the factors, I’m really happy with how I performed, even though I don’t look happy right now,” she said.
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