Skaters Compete For Top U.S. Honors
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Top American skaters have been competing at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. The annual event ends today. USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan is there and on the line Good morning, Christine.
Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Sports Columnist, USA Today): Good morning, Liane.
HANSEN: Last night women's competition, bit of an upset.
Ms. BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely. You know, second acts are extremely rare in women's figure skating just because of the punishing demands of the sport. But certainly seen one here this weekend.
Twenty-three-year-old Alissa Czisny, who had been first two years ago, had a terrible 10th place finish at last year's U.S. Nationals. She came back with a beautiful performance and won the national title. Czisny has had real trouble conquering her nerves over the last five, six, seven years of her career but she did it last night. And she defeated Rachael Flatt, who was last year's national champ, who's 18, and Mirai Nagasu, 17, who people might remember because she was fourth at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Only two women qualify for worlds, so Alissa Czisny moves on as does Rachael Flatt. And Nagasu's the odd woman out, which is too bad because she's certainly an up-and-coming star.
HANSEN: How does the men's competition shape up for tonight?
Ms. BRENNAN: You know, it looks like you got another veteran who's in the mix. Ryan Bradley, Liane, is 27 years old; another skater who considered retiring after missing the Olympic team last year. He won the short program the other night over the two-time defending champion, Jeremy Abbott. And it would seem to be a battle of those two here this afternoon.
Bradley waved goodbye after finishing fourth last year, figuring he was done. But so many people got on Facebook and Twitter urging him to come back that he finally did. He's an engaging, very enlightened, exciting skater out there and it'll be fun to watch him compete.
HANSEN: No surprises in ice dancing. We know these two...
Ms. BRENNAN: No, no surprises there at all. The Olympic silver medalists, Meryl Davis, Charlie White, won their third consecutive national title. And ice dancing has really been a strong point for the United States, really for the last two Olympic Games - two silver medals in a row - and I think we're seeing, again, just a dominating performance by Davis and White, who are in their early 20s. They're going to move on all the way to the 2014 Olympics probably with a whole bunch of young great teams right behind them.
HANSEN: Uh-huh. So, the winners of the U.S. national championships, where do they compete next?
Ms. BRENNAN: It's the world championships, the big competition - there's a couple of things in between. But the world championships are in Tokyo in March. And this is the first year of the four-year Olympic cycle. Building, building, beginning again, to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, which, of course, will be a very big deal for all of these skaters.
HANSEN: Christine Brennan is a sports columnist for USA Today. She's in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she's covering the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. Christine, thank you.
Ms. BRENNAN: Liane, it was my pleasure. Thank you.
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HANSEN: This is NPR News.
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