CLEVELAND – Alissa Czisny finally lived up to all that potential.
Czisny won the women’s title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night, one year after a dismal ninth-place finish had her re-evaluating herself. When the final results were posted, tears filled Czisny’s eyes and a grin spread across her face as longtime coach Julianne Berlin hugged her.
Czisny’s program was far from perfect. But her elegance and maturity was far superior to the up-and-comers who were supposed to turn nationals into their coming-out party. Czisny finished with 178.06 points, more than four points ahead of reigning world junior champion Rachael Flatt.
Earlier Saturday, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker powered through her bad case of the flu and two errors to win their second straight pairs title, edging newcomers Caydee Denney and Jeremy Bennett. McLaughlin and Brubaker are the first couple to defend their title since Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman won three straight from 2000-02.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White wrapped up their first ice dance title.
Czisny has long been considered the most beautiful skater in the country. But she sabotaged herself time and again, never able to hold it together when the pressure was greatest. At 21, this is her eighth trip to the senior nationals, yet she has just one medal to show for it.
Skating dead last in the 23-woman field – a position that surely would have caused a mental meltdown in the past – Czisny took it all in stride. Oh, she wasn’t perfect. She tumbled to the ice on her triple lutz and watered down a planned triple toe loop-triple toe combination to a double-double.
But she picked herself back up and finished with the same calm she had earlier.
Czisny’s next test comes in two months, at the world championships. Results there determine how many spots a country gets at next year’s Vancouver Olympics, and the two U.S. women will have to finish with a combined placement of 13 (fifth and eight, for example) or better to hold onto the three spots the Americans almost always have at the Winter Games.
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