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Rinkside from Greensboro - Jan. 25

Nagasu, Czisny both ready to roll

It has been a season of big changes and terrific results for Alissa Czisny.
It has been a season of big changes and terrific results for Alissa Czisny. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/25/2011) - Mirai Nagasu is in the house, and as usual, she's a bundle of charm and contradictions.

"Nationals is always my favorite competition," the 17-year-old, who adorns many of the banners and posters in the area's international airport and around Greensboro, said.

"I feel like I'm at home. Even though North Carolina is not my home, it is my country, and I love competing here. Somehow, I always manage to pull a good performance out at nationals, no matter what.

"Always my goal is to have fun and enjoy every moment and I hope I can do that here."

The U.S. silver medalist, who placed fourth at the 2010 Olympics and led after the short at the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships, only to wilt in the free skate and finish seventh, put two solid programs back-to-back at Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris this fall and won a silver medal, her first on the Grand Prix circuit.

Still, she isn't sure she has put her insecurities about following a leading short with a strong free skate to bed.

"[Paris] seems like a long time ago now, a lot of things have changed," she said. "I've been working my hardest but I feel like I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage because I didn't have the confidence of working the summer. It's been just hard work, hard work, hard work the whole year."

Nagasu, diagnosed with a right ankle stress fracture in July, was off ice for much of the summer and withdrew from her first Grand Prix event. Since then, she's been playing catch up.

"It's been hard this year, but it's always a good learning experience," she said. "I've learned so many different things as a skater, and as a person as well, skating has developed me.

"I don't know. The past is the past; you have to live in the moment. I really like skating, and it's been a hard couple of weeks. You try to do your best, but sometimes your nerves get you and you have to work through it, so I've been working through it. Even through the bad days I've been having fun."

There have been logistical challenges. Her coach, Frank Carroll, had hoped to be ensconced in a newly built rink in Cathedral City near his home in Palm Springs by now. Instead, he is training his skaters at Lake Arrowhead, located 5200 feet above sea level.

"We're all dying to get out of there because it's winter now," Carroll said. "About three weeks ago, you couldn't even get up the road; they closed it because of snow and rain. It's a very treacherous road.

"It's not hard for me because I've been given a house up there. Mirai and her mother come up and down, and it's hard right now. We're hoping that we're down the hill soon, because the snow is coming in March and that's when the roofs fall in because the snow is so laden with water.

"Sometimes the road is inaccessible; then, I go to Riverside and work with Tammy Gambill. She's been very sweet to me, very kind. Most of time when Mirai is not with me, she goes to Ken [Congemi] at the Toyota Center [in El Segundo]."

Changes bring success for Czisny
Since she began training with Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen last spring, Alissa Czisny has made a lot of changes: new jump technique, new consistency, and new attitude.

``I almost feel like this is a new beginning for me," the skater said after winning the Grand Prix Final in Beijing in December. "The past is gone -- over and done with. I almost feel like I am a new skater.''

Add another "new" to the list: choreographer. Czisny's free skate, choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo to George Winston's lyrical "Winter and Spring," has won rave reviews this fall and inspired some of Czisny's most elegant performances.

"I really wanted something that matched her personality," Camerlengo, a former Italian ice dancer who works at the Detroit Skating Club, said.

"This music is naturally beautiful, just as Alissa is a girl that is naturally beautiful. She does not have to do anything artificial to be beautiful. And her personality is pure; she is also beautiful inside."

Camerlengo, who coached Kaitlin Hawayek and Michael Bramante to the novice ice dance bronze medal here, remembers reserving a late-night session and playing the music for Czisny.

"This music, I think, matches her perfectly; the sound of the piano. It came to my mind to try something like this for her and I was pretty successful because she really felt it.

"We were listening to different pieces of music, and when we listened to this one, it's kind of like some magic happened. You could feel the emotion, the atmosphere created by the music and she watched me and she said, 'This is it, this is what I want, this is what I feel.'"

Camerlengo is fast making Detroit Skating Club a choreography mecca. This season alone, Daisuke Takahashi, Tomas Verner, Akiko Suzuki, Alban Préaubert and newly crowned Canadian bronze medalist Joey Russell are skating to his programs.

He and his wife, two-time world ice dance champion Anjelica Krylova, along with 1988 Olympian Natalia Annenko, coach several dance teams in Greensboro including Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell, as well as 2010 U.S. novice champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton.

Camerlengo reports the Hubbell siblings, who had to withdraw from Cup of Russia due to Keiffer's injury, are back to full strength.

"He had some problems with his back, but we did everything necessary to fix it and now he's skating great," he said.