Alissa Czisny spent this season turning her skating around after nearly retiring last year when she failed to make the Olympic team. She came into the U.S. Nationals as the new 2010 Grand Prix champion.
Rachael Flatt went into Nationals as the defending U.S. champion, knowing no woman has managed to defend her title since Michelle Kwan in 2002.
Mirai Nagasu came out of the short program with a narrow lead, only to continue her pattern of coming up short in the free skate every time that she has led in the short program, including her performance in last year’s World Championships and this year’s Cup of China, despite coming in 4th (highest of the American women) at the Vancouver Olympics.
It was über dramatic.
The three top U.S. women were virtually tied going into the free skate competition, Nagasu in the lead, followed by Czisny, with Flatt in third.
Czisny skated first of the top three, displaying the new form she has been working on this season: “there is a calmness, a focus about her skating that we have not seen before,” said Sandra Bezic. Technically, Scott Hamilton explained, “it’s how she rotates, her air position has changed ever so slightly.”
It was a dreamy free skate, and Czisny’s face said it all throughout. And depend on Hamilton to say it in that Scott way: “Alissa Czisny has it all and she just delivered it, what a comeback!”—along with various undefinable exclamations as usual, building up to her final score of 191.24.
And Mirai Nagasu had to skate right after that.
Before the top three skated, commentator Sandra Bezic said of Nagasu, “She’s an artistic being, so you never know what she’s going to bring to the table; one day it’s divine and the next it’s a mess.”
Unlike past examples of Nagasu’s fall from first place in the short program, she fought this one out, but no one could catch Czisny.
Scott: ““Knowing Mirai for as long as I have, and knowing how volatile she can be—especially when the pressure’s on—after Alissa Czisny took all the air out of the building, she [Mirai] took command of that ice and she delivered a fine performance, that was very, very strong.”
Sandra: “She did [deliver a fine performance], and she looked genuinely afraid when she started, when she took that opening position, and it looked like she battled her demons throughout, it wasn’t the joyous performance that we’re used to from Mirai—it was work.”
So that was rough, again—but it could have been a lot, lot worse.
Before she started her program, coach Frank Carroll was heard to say, “Believe in yourself, get out there and do it. You’re the best skater in the world. Believe it.”
During her “Memoirs of a Geisha” skate, Nagasu stepped out of a double axel a bit and had some balance issues on a spin sequence, which are usually her strongest point. Her final score came to 177.26, well behind Czisny and hoping to hang on to second place so as to make the U.S. team for Worlds in March.
On the upside, she has changed her costume since earlier in the Grand Prix season and I like this blue incarnation better. So, there’s a sartorial win.
Rachael Flatt was last to skate (and people are still busy commenting about her short haircut), delivering an unusually unreliable performance given her reputation. She had a couple of mistakes at the beginning, mistakes that made it impossible to catch Czisny. On a combo that she almost lost, Scott’s verbal contortions changed ‘beautiful’ to a cry of lament: “beeeeeuuuuuuu-ooooooooohhhhh…”
Comments from Flatt?
“That was frustrating.”
Needless to say she came up second to Czisny with 188.38, in all likelihood claiming the second American spot at Worlds in Tokyo this March (the U.S. only has two spots this year because the American, including Flatt and Nagasu, did not score high enough last year).
All three however have been named to the U.S. Four Continents team.
Andrea Joyce obviously got to stalk the champion when it was all over, getting a joyful and grateful snippet from Czisny: “I’m just so happy to have gone out there and done the best that I can do and really come back after last year… being able to find my love for the sport again.”
Newcomer that I liked?
Christina Gao. She’s speedy and surprisingly tall, and only almost knocked into the boards after a combination. Sandra says “the future is hers,” and that “Christina is just magical when she’s on.” I really enjoyed her Yellow River Concerto program. She finaled with a 167.20, finishing in 5th.
So that’s that. Not too many commentary gems from Scott, but we’ll see what I can pull for the men’s programs. We shall see.