Alissa Czisny still battling nerves
It's not difficult for U.S. figure skating champion Alissa Czisny to perform two error-free programs -- when she's practicing.
When she's competing -- that's a different story.
Czisny, 21, skated an exceptionally good short program and less-than-sensational long program while winning her first U.S. title last month in Cleveland. She struggled in both programs last week at the Four Continents championships in Vancouver, Canada, site of the 2010 Olympics, where she finished ninth.
However, she said she learned from that experience and hoped to use that knowledge to improve her performance at the world championships next month in Los Angeles.
"Sometimes I start a little bit in competition with nerves," she said, "and that's what I've been working on all season and I hope I continue to improve that."
Not "staying in the moment" while preparing for jumps has been her downfall, she said. She has tried to improve her focus by working with a sports psychologist, and has added another advisor to the nearly dozen coaches, choreographers and other helpers who work with her.
"Right now I'm working with a performance coach, and that's really been helping me this year," she told reporters Wednesday during a conference call. "I've competed a lot this season to try to work on that problem and I think it's improved a lot and I'm going to continue to make that stronger."
Czisny also said she might tinker with her long program before the world championships to add more "content" that would enable her to earn a higher score. Every point will count: the placements at the world championships will determine the number of entries each country can send to the Vancouver Olympics.
"I think winning the nationals and having that title behind me should give me confidence going into worlds," she said.
Her top competitors at the world championships figure to be Kim Yu-Na of South Korea, winner of the Four Continents event, and Mao Asada of Japan, who finished third in that competition.
Czisny said she especially admires Kim because "her skating quality is lovely. Her jumps are good. I've been watching her through the years and her artistic [components], she's obviously worked a lot on that and improved. I've seen both of their jump qualities are very good, very consistent, something that I hope to have also."
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Alissa Czisny poses with her gold medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 24 in Cleveland. Credit: Elsa / Getty Images