Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hubba, hubba, Czisny back as America's best in skating

Alissa Czisny, reason enough for red-blooded American males to watch figure skating, is back as America's best female skater after taking the U.S. Figure Skating Championship tonight in the sold-out Greensboro Coliseum.

"It's pretty exciting to come back after thinking about quitting," Czisny said, "and being able to find my love for the sport again. I love to skate and I want to share it with everybody."

Third after Friday's short program, Czisny skated a near-perfect, fluid, energetic long program routine to hold off last year's champion Rachel Flatt, who made two minor errors in her long program.

Czisny, who has struggled with confidence in the past, appears to be back after finishing 10th in the U.S. championships last year. She also won the U.S. title in 2009 but had struggled until beating the world's best recently at the Grand Prix final.

"She has so many things you can't teach," former men's champion Scott Hamilton said. "She has a beautiful presence on the ice. You can develop it but what she brings with her spinning and her artistic sense is really amazing."

Even before the end of her long program, Czisny was smiling as she knew she had nailed it. "What else could you want in a woman figure skater?" Hamilton asked. "Alissa Czisny has it all and she just delivered it. What a comeback."

Mirai Nagasu, on the other hand, faltered in the long program after leading going into Saturday night. Small errors throughout dropped her to third.

Flatt, competing last, was third after the short program and couldn't overtake Czisny. "She put together a good routine but two mistakes are too many to hold off a performance like the one delivered by Alissa Czisny," Hamilton said.

Czisny, who leads the U.S. team to the world championships in Toyko in March, finished with 191.24 points, while Flatt had 183.38 and Nagasu had 177.26.

The men's champion, with favorites Ryan Bradley and Jeremy Abbott fighting it out, will be determined Sunday. The event closes with a skating spectacular performance Sunday night.

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