Saturday, September 12, 2009

U.S. women’s champ Czisny no sure bet to make figure skating team

Alissa Czisny is the U.S. figure skating champion, but she is not guaranteed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Czisny, 22, was only 11th at worlds.

The U.S. has only two spots in the women’s event for only the second time at the Olympics since 1924.

Rachael Flatt was fifth at the world championships, but Sasha Cohen, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, is returning after three seasons off. And Kimmie Meissner, who competed at the ’06 Games and has been plagued with injuries, also hopes to return to form.

"I’m excited about [Cohen] hoping to come back," Czisny said. "It’s great she wants to give it another shot. A lot of people think she might be too old to come back. She’s 24. I think it’s great when people who are considered old in the skating world come back and give it another shot."

Mirai Nagasu, though, admits to some angst.

"It’s a little intimidating that the Olympic silver medalist is coming back," Nagasu, 16, said. "She just has that edge over us. Hopefully, I’ll use my experience this past year to help me out, and my youth."

The two American women’s skaters will be selected at the U.S. championships in Spokane, Wash., in January. Nagasu, Ashley Wagner and Carolina Zhang are other contenders for the spots.

Thumbs up

Skier Lindsey Vonn cut her finger open while opening a champagne bottle for a photo op in February. Vonn, a two-time overall World Cup champion, had to tape her pole to her glove the rest of the season.

But she said Friday that the injury has healed well enough that she’s playing tennis again.

"It’s doing really well," Vonn said during a teleconference from Portillo, Chile, where she is training. "It gets a little bit sore after a long day of training on the hill, but it’s really good. I haven’t had any problems with it. It’s really strong. ... It’s healed up perfectly."

Vonn won the downhill and super-G World Cup titles and was a double gold medalist at the world championships. But Vonn doesn’t have an Olympic medal. After a crash in a training run in Turin sent her to the hospital, Vonn finished eighth in the downhill a day later at the 2006 Games.

She is the favorite this season, though she will have to hold off Germany’s Maria Riesch and Sweden’s Anja Paerson.

"The Olympics are something that, as a little kid, I always dreamed about winning," Vonn said.

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