GREENSBORO, N.C. — After two years of ups and downs, Alissa Czisny lifted herself back to the top of figure skating in the United States on Saturday, performing elegantly and nearly perfectly to win her second national championship.
From the moment the final note of her music played, Czisny could not stop smiling. And with good reason.
The top three skaters — Czisny, Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu — had gone into the long program with only about a point separating them. But Czisny proved she was the night’s best by a landslide, winning with a score of 191.24 points. She beat Flatt (183.38) by nearly 8 points and Nagasu (177.26) by almost 14.
“I knew exactly what I had to do,” Czisny said. “Before every jump, I thought about what I was here for and what my goals were. I fought for every single thing.”
Czisny, who at 23 is a veteran compared with the others, had just beaten Flatt and Nagasu — two former national champions — to become the first American woman to win multiple national championships since Michelle Kwan ended her reign of eight straight titles in 2005.
Nagasu, 17, the 2008 national champion, had hoped to be the one to do that. At last year’s Vancouver Olympics, she was the top finisher among the American women, finishing fourth. But on Saturday, she was good enough for only third.
Nagasu, who has a reputation for crumbling in her long program, came into the final skate in first place. But when she heard her score Saturday, she could not hide her disappointment. In the kiss-and-cry area, she frowned and slumped over.
Not only did Nagasu have problems on several of her jumps, but she received no points for her flying sit spin after stumbling into its entry.
“I can’t believe I messed up on a spin! A spin!” she said, adding that she had let her nerves get the best of her.
The United States has qualified for only two spots in the women’s competition at the world championships in March, so Nagasu will not be making the trip to Tokyo. Instead, Flatt, last year’s national champion and this year’s runner-up, will join Czisny.
Flatt, who skated last, also had errors on some of her jumps in the free skate.
“I guess I was a little bit tired,” she said. “I had to skate pretty late, so that was a bit tough.”
Czisny, though, looked fresh throughout her program. Skating to selections from George Winston’s “Winter Into Spring,” she glided atop the ice so smoothly that she looked weightless. Her blue chiffon dress fluttered as she landed jump after jump with grace. Afterward, she stood at center ice and beamed as the crowd rose to its feet.
She had won the national title in 2009, but so many things have happened to her in skating since then. She crumbled at the world championships that year, finishing 11th and costing the United States a third spot in the Olympics. At nationals last year, she finished 10th, missing a chance to compete in Vancouver.
Crushed, Czisny wanted to quit the sport, but her mentor, the former Olympic champion Brian Boitano, persuaded her not to. Considering her performance Saturday, she was fortunate to take his advice.
Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin won their first national championship in the pairs event, scoring 188.45 points. Coughlin finished the performance in tears, burying his face in Yankowskas’s hand. They had skated to “Ave Maria,” a song that has been emotional for Coughlin since his mother died last February. “It was hard; It was definitely hard,” Coughlin said. “But skating makes everything easier.” Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, who were 10th at the Olympics, finished second, with 185.22 points. … In ice dancing, Meryl Davis and Charlie White — the silver medalists at the Olympics — convincingly won their third consecutive national championship with 185.48 points over all, beating the up-and-comers Maia and Alex Shibutani.
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