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Published: Saturday, 1/29/2011

Czisny wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships

GREENSBORO — Fragile no more, Alissa Czisny is a champion once again.

Czisny, a Bowling Green native, proved she finally has the mettle to match her considerable talent in winning her second title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night, keeping her cool while Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu wilted under the pressure.

Her final score of 191.24 points was almost eight better than Flatt, astonishing considering the three previous champions began the night separated by only a point.

Flatt, the defending champ, scored 183.28 while Nagasu was a distant — and disappointing — third at 177.26.

Earlier Saturday, Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin won their first pairs title with what could be the most powerful performance of the entire competition. Their angelic "Ave Maria" is a tribute to Coughlin's mother, Stacy, who got him started in skating and passed away last February.

"I told myself no matter what we did today, to get out there on the ice and perform that program was going to be a happy moment for me," said Coughlin, who buried his face in Yankowskas' hands when they finished.

Also, Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White easily won their third straight dance title to lead a 1-2-3 sweep by their rink in Canton, Mich. Davis and White's only losses over the last two seasons are two Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, but their steamy tango served notice they intend to end the American oh-fer atop the world dance podium.

No one has ever questioned Czisny's athleticism, beauty, or elegance. Her head, however, was a different matter. After winning the title in 2009, she flopped at worlds, helping cost the Americans a third spot at the Vancouver Olympics. She was out of the running for Vancouver after a dismal performance in the short program, an experience she called a "heartbreak" earlier this week.

But she's switched coaches and gone through intense introspection since then, coming out of it a much stronger skater.

This was the signature performance of her career thus far, showing all of her trademark elegance and more than a little guts. She had to fight hard to save the landing on a triple loop, and all of the rest of her jumps — six triples, three of which were in combination — were flawless. Skating to George Winston's "Winter into Spring," she looked both delicate and powerful.

Her edge quality is so first-class, her tracings could be sold as artwork. Her spirals were exquisite, prompting the oohs and aahs Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen used to hear.

When her scores were posted, Czisny's eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.



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