Rochette makes her move, wins gold
American Czisny brilliant in bronze; Suguri takes silver
|Joannie Rochette earned a career-high 124.15 points in her gold medal-winning free skate. (Getty Images)|
With her runaway win at the HomeSense Skate Canada International on Saturday, the four-time Canadian champion served notice she has what it takes to be on the world podium this season and the Olympic one the next.
Rochette, fifth at the 2008 World Championships, performed her Spanish-styled program to "Concierto de Aranjuez" with poise, determination and, most importantly, with fire. The audience gave her a prolonged standing ovation for a program that was mesmerizing in its presentation and precise in its technique.
With a personal-best 124.15 score for her finale and another career high in her total score (188.89), Rochette outdistanced silver medalist Fumie Suguri of Japan by just more than 25 points.
American Alissa Czisny roared back from a sixth-place short program to take the bronze medal with 157.92 points in all. She was second to Rochette in the long program, thanks to a superbly skated performance set to the Dr. Zhivago soundtrack.
Rochette opened her routine with a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combo then followed that with a solid triple flip and loop. Her only miscues came when she stepped off the landing edge of a triple Salchow and singled a planned double Axel in the closing minute.
"My goal was to be focused and not get those bad butterflies when I skate. It was very good because I felt relaxed out there; I felt calm. I was able to trust my training, and I felt just like at home," said Rochette, who also won this event in 2006.
Suguri, now training with Nikolai Morozov in New Jersey, delivered four triples but singled one of her triple flips.
"It was very nice to skate in front of Canadian audience again, and I want to thank them that they really cheered me and, I think, that's why I could skate well," said Suguri, who struggled in the past couple of seasons.
She also thanked Morozov for taking "this job" of helping to revive her competitive career, which includes two world bronze medals and a silver in 2006.
Like Rochette, Czisny earned a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd who cheered her dizzying spins and impressive spiral sequence, which featured an incredibly difficult forward Charlotte spiral. She also nailed five triple jumps.
"This summer, I went out and tried to compete a lot, to feel comfortable in front of the judges. I think that helped me a lot," said Czisny, the 2005 Skate Canada champion who was ninth at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Czisny also rejigged her jumping technique over the last year and said that, although it made for a difficult time, she believes the result has been worth it.
Caroline Zhang, 15, also of the U.S., dropped from third after the opener to fifth overall after encountering some glitches in her long program, set to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." Teammate Bebe Liang ended the night in sixth.
Italy's Carolina Kostner, the world silver medalist, rebounded from a disastrous short program, which ranked just seventh, to finish fourth overall.
Czisny does not currently have a second Grand Prix assignment but is hoping that if a spot opens up, the host country would consider inviting her to step in on the strength of her showing here.