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Flatt looking to shake off poor Grand Prix season

Three-time U.S. world team member finally healthy enough to attempt Lutzes

Rachael Flatt is hoping to make the U.S. world team for the fourth year in a row.
Rachael Flatt is hoping to make the U.S. world team for the fourth year in a row. (Getty Images)

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By Mickey Brown
(01/18/2012) - Rachael Flatt freely admits she underperformed last fall.

"It wasn't my best Grand Prix season," said Flatt, the 2010 U.S. champion and Olympian. "I was managing a lot, with moving to California, switching coaches, starting college. One of those things is enough to throw things off.

"On top of that, I've been injured. It's been frustrating. It's made me more motivated for nationals."

Flatt can erase the memories of her ninth and 10th-place finishes at Skate Canada and the Rostelecom Cup, respectively, with a top-two finish at next week's U.S. Figure Skating Championships, a placement that would put her on the world team for the fourth year in a row.

She believes she's in a good position to do so, especially now that her nagging ankle injury is under control. She was diagnosed with tenosynovitis, which makes the tendons in her ankle more sensitive to pressure.

"I'm one of those people who ties their skates incredibly tight," Flatt said regretfully. "It's problematic."

The condition was affecting her since before she competed in Russia. After that event, she took two weeks off, but the pain didn't dissipate; in fact, it got worse, not allowing her to do any double or triple jumps for several weeks.

Over the holiday break, she returned to Colorado, where she got X-rays and tried several different treatments, but none did the trick. Flatt talked to Dan Riegelman, of Riedell skates, and he constructed her a set of boots with a new tongue and more padding within the skate, to relieve the pressure.

Bingo.

"My new boots feel fantastic," Flatt said. "I have a minimal level of pain."

Flatt is back to training just as she normally would this time of year. And she's anticipating being able to expand her jump repertoire in San Jose, with planned Lutzes as well as flips (as opposed to just the flips she was able to attempt in Moscow).

"It's just about managing the pain at this point," Flatt said. "I don't foresee it getting any worse, unless I do something stupid. I'm making sure in my training I'm aiming for quality over quantity."

Also making her life easier is her second-quarter schedule at Stanford University. She has class from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every day, allowing her to train in the morning and afternoon. To get to the rink, she takes a train to Oakland.

"I get an additional three hours of homework instead of working on my singing voice," she said, referring to the time she used to spend riding in a car to and from the training facility.

Flatt was asked if she's aware of any of the stories that have come out about her main competitors ahead of nationals, namely Ashley Wagner declaring herself the favorite to win the U.S. title.

"I haven't been paying attention to it," Flatt said. "I use every second of my time to get homework done or get extra sleep. I don't waste time on the Internet. That's the nice thing about being in school. I don't have time to get caught up in the swirl of media attention."

Though she admits Palo Alto doesn't feel like home yet, she is a California girl at heart, so having the U.S. Championships in San Jose, a mere 20-25 minute drive from the Stanford campus, does get her juices flowing.

"I know a lot of kids at the rink who are excited to stop by. A bunch of my dorm mates are going to come by and watch. I'm really excited for that," Flatt said. "I'll have support from The Red Zone (the Stanford student cheering section)."

Flatt isn't the only one expecting big things from her at nationals. U.S. Figure Skating and the city of Colorado Springs plastered a 45-foot-tall vinyl wrap on a downtown building recently, to promote the 2012 Four Continents Championships, which will take place Feb. 7-12 in the place where Flatt used to call home.

The 5'2" Flatt doesn't view the hard-to-miss likeness of herself as a sign that her federation has made an investment in her.

Instead, she chooses to have some fun with it.

She said, "I finally had a growth spurt."