Czisny Back on Track after Injury Plagued Grand Prix Final

(Quotes from U.S. Figure Skating Telecon, 10 Jan 2012)

Alissa Czisny, the reigning U.S. National Champion is back on track to compete for the 2012 U.S. title after an injury hampered performance at the Grand Prix Final in Canada last month. Czisny injured her foot at the competition practicing triple flips but decided to compete regardless and had her poorest showing of the season. Since then she has put the injury behind her, and has her sights on defending her U.S. title.

"Iím excited heading into the national championships," she said. "Obviously the final wasnít my best and I had the injury. I took a week off and then slowly got back into training to make sure I didnít make the injury any worse. Itís much better now, itís healed and training is going really well."

"Itís 100% healed," she added. "Iím just being very careful with it so that I donít repeat the injury."

On why she chose to compete at the Final, knowing she was no where near 100% she explained, "The doctors at the final told me that is was alright to compete on the injury, that it wouldnít make it any worse. It just wouldnít be easy, and I chose to compete even though I knew that it was going to be hard. I felt that I had qualified and I just wanted to go out and try my best. I knew it wasnít going to be good, but I think I learned a lot from the whole experience."

Due to the injury, Czisny reworked her programs, taking out the triple flips, but they are back in the program now. "Yes, the flip is back in the program," she confirmed. "That was just a temporary [thing]. We, took it out temporarily because that was the jump that I had injured my foot on in [the competition]. It was a bit difficult to do that week at the final."

Asked about the therapy involved to recuperate she said, "There wasnít too much therapy involved, but taping my foot, resting it, going to the chiropractor and working with the physical therapist at the rink and really just making sure that Iím trained well and strong enough so that that doesnít happen again." As for what happened at the final she described, "It [the injury] was several things that kind of all went out of place and strained the muscle, and moved a bone, and it was a bunch of things."

There has been recent discussion in the media about whether IJS has taken the heart out of skating compared to the previous scoring system. As a skater known for her artistic performance who began her career under 6.0 we asked if she agreed with that view. "On the contrary," she said, "in my personal experience, I enjoy competing under the new system more. I mean, I wasnít at a high enough level in the old system. Iíve seen the new system kind of went through the growth spurts, but I feel as a competitor that I enjoy the new system better because it defines exactly what the judges, the technical panel, are looking for. But at the same time weíre still able to have our own freedom in expressing, you know, the musical choices."

The 2012 National Championships will be held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, home of the San Jose Sharks hockey team. Asked if she followed hockey, she laughed. "Iíd be lying if I say I did. Every once in a while I watch hockey and I enjoy watching it live." Asked what she would say to hockey fans about watching skating she said, "I think that figure skating can be just as exciting as hockey. There might not be the fighting on the ice, but there are pretty girls in pretty dresses!"

On her preparations for the final not being where she would have liked them to be, and since, she said, "There were a lot of things. It wasnít just that particular thing at the final [the injury]. It was the whole Grand Prix season. I felt going into the final I wasnít as trained as I wanted to be.  Then the injury happened and that made things even harder. But even in doing so, I mean, I learned to be able to go out and to fight through something that hurt a lot and it wasnít easy, and I really wasnít as trained as I wanted to be."

On preparing for Nationals and pacing herself thought the long run up into Nationals she said, "I think itís the same thing. I donít pretend to understand everything about it, but my coaches definitely know what they are doing and I trust them to tell me exactly what to do, and I can tell you that I am much more prepared going into this half of the season."

Elaborating on being prepared she added, "It wasnít necessarily that I wasnít well trained, but I felt like I wasnít in the right spot. I mean, I was upping the technical content of my programs and we were playing around with the jump order and what to put in the programs. And obviously with the Grand Prixs so close to each other itís hard to train between the Grand Prixs. And after changing all those things I wasnít necessarily as comfortable as I wanted to be with the programs, I think."

Earlier in the season Czisny had been working triple-triples and had set that as a goal, as well as working the triple Salchow which is currently not part of her routines. On her current program content she said, "At the moment thereís no triple sow in the program. But I have six triples and two double Axels planned for my long program, which means I am doing double Axel Ė triple toe loop in the long instead of a triple-triple combo; because in reality putting a triple toe on any jump is going to be the same amount of points. And then for the short program we are just keeping it [the required jump combination] a triple-double, and making it clean ??? [bad audio].

On the triple-triple combination she added, "I think it was fairly ambitious, and Iím not saying that Iím not going to go back there yet this season but at the moment I try to just add what I can to be able to go out and skate clean."

Through her career Czisny has had her ups and downs, winning and losing the championship, only to repeat in 2011, which can be a lot to deal with for a young athlete. "Well I think in the past I didnít know how to do that [deal with the highs and lows], she said, "and now, you know, after last year making all the changes, I feel like all I can do is train my best and go out to a competition and do my best. The results ultimately are not in my hands but I can control how I skate on the ice, and thatís what I prepare for every day, to go out and skate my best, and leave the rest up to the judges. I think a lot of skills that Iíve learned through skating will help me in the rest of my life. That one included [the ability to cope with career ups and downs]."

Michelle Kwan will be inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame at the 2012 Nationals. Asked her memories and thoughts about Kwan she said, "I canít honestly say what my first memories are of her. But I do remember my first senior nationals, 2002 Los Angeles. I skated first in the short program, and she skated second in the short program, and just being able to sit in the kiss-and-cry and watch her compete was just such an amazing experience, and I think being able to see her in person both on the ice and off the ice back stage, I learned so much about how she carried herself as a champion."

She added, "Well as a skater I have so much respect for her to be able to, to be on top for so long. I mean itís one thing to win the World Championships, but to win as many as she did, and to be able to come back every year at nationals, and just, I mean, if you go back and watch the videos of her, just the joy that she gave to the audience when she was skating, itís no wonder that everyone loves her."

On what the championship means to her she said, "I think for me itís a great honor to be the National Champion, and to be able to come back after all Iíve been through, to regain the title last year meant a lot to me. And this year, you know, I feel like Iíve been trying to up the technical aspects of my skating as well as the other aspects of my skating, and I would really like to go in there and to repeat again."

Now coached by Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato, Czisny credits the two with making her a new skater. "Wow, I think that itís really improved my skating in every way [changing coaches], and itís not even just the technical side of my skating, but I think itís my perspective on skating, on training, on competing. I mean, I felt like when I changed coaches that everything changed and I became a new skater."

She added, "I think it is everything that they do, not just one particular thing. And itís the fact that they are there every day helping me face whatever that particular day may bring." Asked if it was largely the mental support she said, "Yes, correct. But it also includes the training on the ice."

Also important to Czisny is the confidence her coaches have brought to her competing. "Yes," she said, "they, in the beginning they believed in me when I felt like not many people did, and that, that alone gave me confidence, and made me want to live up to that belief."

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Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano