Photos copyright 2011 by George S. Rossano
The 2008, 2009 and 2010 National Champions -- Mirai Nagasu, Alissa Czisny and Rachael Flatt -- squared off in the Short Program, and not surprisingly took the top three places, with only 1.03 points separating them. Less then one point further back, the 2010 Junior National Champions, Agnes Zawaddzki, took fourth place.
Nagasu, coached by Frank Carroll with choreography by Lori Nichol, skated as strong program with good speed and power and was a commanding presence on the ice. Except for an edge call on triple flip, which six judges scored negative, her elements were strong and clean. Her closing layback spin, called level 4 (back to side, difficult variation, 8 rotation, Biellmann), was scored at +3 by five of the judges and +2 by the remainder. Her program components averaged near 7.5 which fairly uniform strength among all five components.
Alissa Czisny, who skated early in the event placed second in the Short Program. She scored 0.85 behind Nagasu with many of the same strengths and weaknesses. Czisny had an edge call on triple flip as did Nagasu and had nearly the same elements with nearly the same GoEs. Her closing layback spin was called level 3 (back to side, difficult variation and Biellmann), and received six marks of +3 and the remainder +2s. The top two ladies were separated by only 0.13 points in element points. Czisny's component scores averaged just under 7.5. On the presentation side, the main difference between Czisny and Nagasu was Czisny's slower speed and distinctly lower Transitions core.
Rachael Flatt skated two groups later, performing to "East of Eden", a piece strongly associated with Michelle Kwan. Some questioned whether this was a god ideal, risking an adverse comparison with the legend, but her performance vindicated the choice. Flatt gave a superb performance with speed and enthusiasm. There was some criticism of the footwork tornado in the straight line step sequence near the end of the program, but others found it inspiring. Flatt skated clean with no adverse calls and no negative GoEs. The most glaring weakness in the performance was her level 1 layback spin, the perennial thorn in her technical side. Her components averaged just over 7.5 with panel score of 8 in Presentation.
While the top three ladies were neck in neck for both elements and components, Agnes Zawadzki took fourth place with the highest element points of the Short Program, but weaker component scores. She landed a clean triple toe loop - triple toe loop, one of three triple-triple combinations landed in the competition. She had three level four spins and a level two step sequence, with no negative GoEs. Her program components averaged just under 7, with her best scores in presentation. Her mambo routine was cleanly skated with decent speed and expression, but was a little thin on Transitions, her lowest component score.
Strong performance were also given by Christina Gao and Vanessa Lam, though Gao landed her double Axel on the toe and stepped out. Both these ladies as well as Ashley Wagner are within striking distance to make the podium. Ashley Wagner, who has not been well, had issues will all three jumps. She stepped out of triple flip, which was to be her combination, and added an awkward double toe on the subsequent triple Lutz. She also had a small step out of double Axel. These three elements were all scored negative to a greater or lesser extent. Her components averaged near 6.75.
In the Free Skate, the start order for the last warm-up group will be random for places four through six, followed by random order for places 1 through 3.
Alissa Czisny skated a nearly clean long program to win the Free Skate and her second National title. Her two strong back to back performances gave her the most consistent result of her career, after a disappointing tenth place finish last year.
Czisny was the first to perform of the top three ladies in the last warm-up group. She was technically solid with five triples landed, including two triple Lutzes. Except for a triple loop attempt, these were solid triples, not her often previous hold-your-breath oh-my-will-she-get-around-on-them triples. Mid-way through the routine, however, her triple loop attempt was called under-rotated and a near fall. Now an "old lady" of nearly 24, Czisny's spins still dazzle, with two called at level four and her layback spin at level 3. Her circular step sequence was the only level four sequence of the ladies event. (There was also only one level four step sequence in the Men's event).
Skating to piano selections by George Winston, the program was well skated with excellent expression, the monotonously slow pace of her skating well matched to the hypnotic but monotonous tempo of the music. Transitions were well executed but a bit thin in places, with one judge going to 6.75 for that component, but the rest averaging in the mid-sevens. Interpretation was her strongest score with two judges going to 9.00, and the panel average near 8.5. With a total Free Skate score of 128.74 it was a good result, but potentially beatable by Rachael Flatt or Mirai Nagasu who followed Czisny in the start order.
Having won the Short Program, reclaiming the National tile (which she won in 2008) was within Nagasu's reach, but she lost her nerve late in the program and dropped to third in the Free Skate and third overall -- missing out on the World Team, which has just two openings for the Ladies this year.
Nagasu looked tentative as she started, but completed her first five elements cleanly, other than an edge call on triple flip. Her sixth element was an under-rotated triple Lutz, followed by a clean triple toe loop - double toe loop - double loop combination and a clean triple loop. Rather than building her confidence by having completed two-thirds of the program, and the most difficult elements, with only two minor errors, she instead seemed to loose her nerve in the last third of the program. She stepped out of a double Axel and fell out of a flying sit spin, which was called no value. Her two other spins, however, were called level four and were well executed, while a straight line step sequence was called level 2. The base value of her elements was more than five points below Czisny and Flatt, and only 11th best of the 22 ladies in the Free Skate. Her components averaged just above 7.5, third best of the group.
Last to skate was Rachael Flatt, the 2010 Ladies Champion. Her effort to "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" was mostly well presented, though a bit sluggish. The fatal problem, however, was several errors in the jump elements, which were a shadow of their former selves. Only four triples were landed cleanly. Three jump elements were scored negative including a planned triple Lutz - triple loop combination which was popped to a double Lutz. She completed two level four spins and one level three, but even with these her lack of flexibility and speed of rotation cost her in GoEs. In total she was scored nearly five points behind Czisny in TES, and she trailed Czisny by nearly four additional points in PCS. Her components averaged near 7.75.
Agnes Zawadzki had a strong skate in the long to finish fourth in her first year in the Senior division. She was clean through the first seven elements, though a planned triple Lutz - double toe loop combination ended up popped to a double Lutz. She improvised, the combination two elements later, adding the double toe loop to her second planned triple Lutz which was cleanly landed. A solo triple loop attempt was under-rotated and she fell. After a clean triple Salchow, she had a poor landing on triple toe loop but still managed to squeeze off a double toe loop and double loop to complete the combination, though with GoEs scored from 0 to -2. She finished with a nice straight line step sequence and a well executed level four change foot combination spin. Of her two other spins, one was called level four and the other level three. Her skating was strong and powerful, with decent expression, but in need of artistic refinement. Her components averaged just above 7, but there was a fair bit of disagreement among the judges, with some having her in the mid sixes and others the mid sevens.
Christina Gao gave a lively well skated performance with six clean triples, and a fall on a triple flip attempt. She opened with a well executed triple flip - triple toe loop combination, the only triple-triple from the ladies in the event. She placed sixth in the Free Skate and ended up fifth overall.
Ashley Wagner improved from seventh in the Short Program to fifth in the Free Skate to finish sixth overall. She landed three clean triple jumps.
|Tatyana Khazova||Keli Zhou||Katy Jo West|
|Raina Narita||Kristiene Gong||Ellie Kawamura|
|Kelsey Traunero||Melissa Bulanhagui||Danielle Kahle|
|Kristine Musademba||Alexe Gilles||Caroline Zhang|
|Joelle Forte||Yasmin Siraj||Morgan Bell|
|Ashley Wagner||Vanessa Lam||Agnes Zawadzki|
|Christina Gao||Alissa Czisny||Mirai Nagasu|
|2011 Senior Ladies Medallists|
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