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Czisny edges Kostner for first Skate America title

Two-time U.S. champion earns gold with ambitious free skate

Alissa Czisny's free skate was not perfect, but it was good enough to earn her the win
Alissa Czisny's free skate was not perfect, but it was good enough to earn her the win (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/23/2011) - Alissa Czisny aimed high and came up big.

The two-time U.S. champion delivered an ambitious, if flawed, free skate that was just good enough to hold off Carolina Kostner for the ladies Skate America title.

"Some things went well, some things didn't go well, but it's the first competition," Czisny said. "I had to fight for everything in my program, and that's what I did.

"I am so happy I won something other than Skate Canada [in 2005 and 2010]."

Kostner won the free skate but came up just .13 points short of gold and had to settle for silver. Viktoria Helgesson took bronze, the first Grand Prix medal ever won by a Swedish skater.

In the build-up to the event, Czisny promised reporters she would try a seven-triple program, including a triple Lutz-triple toe combination.

The 24-year-old made good on the first part of her pledge, opening her "Valse Triste" program with the triple-triple. Although the second jump was downgraded by the technical panel, it still earned 5.90 points.

Czisny fell on her second triple, a flip, but recovered to fight for the landing of a triple loop and two more triples. As usual, her spins and steps -- including a glorious closing layback -- helped her cause, and she earned 113.28 points for a 177.48 points total.

"There are some new things in my program, and I had to take everything one thing at a time," Czisny said. "I'm happy I went for the triple-triple."

"I think there has been tremendous growth, not only in her mental toughness, but her components score is the highest in the competition," said Jason Dungjen, who coaches Czisny at the Detroit Skating Club.

"We'll go home and see if we want to retool anything or switch [any elements in the program] around."

Kostner landed five triples in her Mozart free, although she did not include a triple Lutz in her repertoire. Still, she would have won the title had she not faltered on her two closing combination spins, both of which gained just Level 1.

"Alissa did a really good short yesterday -- I did a good free today," said Kostner, who trailed Czisny by 3.97 points entering the free.

"I am surprised I did so well at my first competition. I didn't expect it. I am usually more like a roller coaster at the beginning of the season."

The top two skaters finished more than 30 points ahead of the rest of the field.

Helgesson, who hit three clean triples in her program Sunday, won her historic bronze by placing fifth in both the short and free.

"It is a really big thing for me," the 23-year-old said. "I am really happy to be here. I have improved my programs a lot from last season, and I hope to do more in the future."

Viktoria's 18-year-old sister, Joshi Helgesson, placed 10th.

In third place after the short, former U.S. bronze medalist Caroline Zhang took herself out of medal contention by falling three times in her free skate, although she did land two solid triple loops. The 2007 world junior champion placed sixth.

"That was just plain stupid; I really don't know what happened," Zhang said. "I've been doing it clean in practice, so it was just a bunch of stupid mistakes that got to me.

"When I started thinking about the mistakes, each one just got worse."

Skating in her first Grand Prix, Joelle Forte placed eighth. The 25-year-old fell on the second Lutz in her free but landed three other clean triples.

"I enjoyed it out there," she said. "I tried to take my time because the elements are there and now I just have to work on the whole package and trying to reach out to the audience more."