Figure skater Czisny has been where Flatt is going

Flissa Czisny
Thanks to John Henderson from The Denver Post for his permission to publish this article

photo by Elsa,Getty Images

Rachael Flatt‘s decision to defer her Stanford education a year received a rousing endorsement from someone who knows. Alissa Czisny, who preceded Flatt’s 2010 national title with the 2009 crown, graduated from Bowling Green State last May.

For four years, Czisny trained and studied, studied and trained, while her competitors merely trained and trained and trained.

Both will skate Sunday at the Pepsi Center as part of the Smucker’s Stars on Ice exhibition. They’ll be joined by the likes of Aspen native Jeremy Abbott, the current U.S. men’s champion, and former world champion Todd Eldridge.

Czisny, 22, is the only one in the group with a college degree summa cum laude. She’s also the only one with the proper perspective on Flatt, who has never received anything but an A, taking a year off academics.

“It’s probably a smart idea, because you can always go to school,” Czisny said Friday morning from the tour’s stop in Dallas. “But there’s a point where you can no longer have a skating career.”

Logistics made it easier for Czisny. She grew up in Bowling Green and lived her first two years of college at home. She took her last two years online while training outside Detroit and doing part-time modeling.

Her Olympic dreams and modeling aspirations weren’t going to get in the way of Western Civ.
“School’s always been important for my family,” Czisny said. “That’s something they always said came first, so I grew up thinking that way. When I got offered a scholarship to Bowling Green, I took it because I couldn’t afford school and skating.”

She wasn’t your basic public figure in class, either. In 2006 she won outstanding sophomore of the year award in international studies and the first-year Russian student award. Flatt can ask her all about college academics but not about all-campus keggers.

Czisny was as serious about school as skating. Her classmates didn’t know she was a Grand Prix finalist at 18 until “Ice Diaries” followed her around school for a feature.

“It was a lot of work,” she said. “I’d study at the rink during my break. I’d study in the car. I’d study at home after skating.”

The 2009 national title showed she could balance, but with school out of the way this past year, she couldn’t translate the extra time into an Olympic berth. At Nationals in Spokane, Wash., she finished 10th.

“The Olympics have always been my dream,” Czisny said. “I wanted it too much, and I got scared.”

She was going to watch more Olympic curling on TV than figure skating but changed her mind, saying, “I decided to watch and learn.”

Spokane made the timing of her recent coaching switch curious. She dropped Julianne Berlin for Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, the couple she saw help Abbott defend his national title while she trained in the same rink in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Don’t read too much into it, Czisny said. She had been with Berlin for 12 years. Sometimes skaters change for change’s sake. Abbott used the same strategy last year.

“Sometimes when you hear the exact thing in different words from someone else, it might make a difference,” Czisny said. “I look at it like Tiger Woods. He had a great golf swing, but he wanted to go back and perfect it. I feel like that’s what I’m doing.”

Reprinted with personal permission by John Henderson, the original author.

WFS - An independent online sports magazine