Alissa Czisny took a break from skating after a disastrous performance that placed her ninth at the U.S. Championships last season. But instead of choosing retirement, Czisny opted for a new outlook.
“I decided to continue and just enjoy skating rather than focus on the outcome,” Czisny said after skating a first place short program in Cleveland. Her new approach has helped her earn a 5.56-point lead heading into Saturday’s free skate.
The Bowling Green University student dazzled in her performance to Saint-Saens’ “The Swan,” which drew the only standing ovation of the evening at the Quicken Loans Arena. Czisny nailed a triple Lutz combination, triple flip and double axel to put herself ahead of World Junior Champions Rachael Flatt and Caroline Zhang.
“I’m really excited to have skated that well here at nationals,” said Czisny, who has never won the nationals short program in her eight years as a senior. “I’ve done a lot of work, so I expected it from myself.”
Flatt turned in a solid but conservative performance void of her triple flip-triple toe loop combination. “I think I did pretty well in the program, but it wasn’t my best,” said Flatt, who has been the strongest American skater on the international scene this season.
Zhang finished third with a good performance that included a triple flip-triple toe combination. “There were a lot of things I could have done better but overall it was a better performance than at my Grand Prix [events].”
Brittney Rizo (55.43) made a stellar senior debut with a fourth place short program.
Katrina Hacker was fifth with a score of 54.79.
Defending U.S. Champion Mirai Nagasu (54.79) held back tears after her sixth place short program. “I know this may sound a little pessimistic but I think that this will probably be my last competition [of the season],” she said.
Already disappointed by her fifth place showing at Skate America and eighth place showing at NHK Trophy, where she competed with an ankle injury, Nagasu faced more frustration when she crashed into the boards on the landing of the opening jump in her short.
“I think the competition is very tough and I said that I’m not giving up yet but you never know what the results will be,” Nagasu said while wiping tears from her eyes. “You never know.”
Other results include Beatrisa Liang (51.49), 10th; Alexe Gilles (50.30), 11th; and Ashley Wagner (50.28), 12th. The ladies free skate starts at 6:40 p.m. local time on Saturday.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White increased their lead in ice dancing with a spectacular original dance to “Happy Feet.” The team received all positive grades of execution for all of their elements, which were valued at Level 3 and Level 4.
They lead the competition with 101.86 points after first place performances in both the compulsory dance and the original. Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were second in both parts of the competition for a total score of 93.25.
“Overall, it felt like a strong performance,” Samuelson said about the original dance. “We wanted to present the program the best that we could, and we wanted to portray the characters of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s the best we could, and I think we did that.”
Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre were crowd pleasing in their original but were not technically sound. They remain in third place with 89.52 despite only finishing sixth in the original dance.
“I think we were really happy with how we skated tonight,” Navarro said. “We lost a lot of points technically, but that was not our focus tonight. We were focused on the performance.”
Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell are fourth with 87.03.
Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles are fifth with 86.91.
In the junior ice dance event, Junior Grand Prix Final Champions Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein (167.81) picked up their fourth major victory of the season. They finished 6.78 points ahead of silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.
The bronze medal went to Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue (151.10) while Shannon Wingle and Timothy McKernan, who train in Canton with the gold and silver medalists, were fourth with 145.05.
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