For some, this season was about defending. For others, it was about improving. Yet for so many, it seemed, there was only one thing that would satisfy – redemption.
Alissa Czisny came to Nationals with potentially the most pressure of any skater in the line up, including defending champ Jeremy Abbott. Why, you ask? Because there were people round the world, despite her Grand Prix Final win or her series medals, who were still saying she’d never pull it off; people who had watched her win in 2009, only to see her crumble under the pressure of life-long dreams in 2010.
They said she didn’t have the stuff champions are made of. They didn’t know how different this year had made her.
She hit the ice in Greensboro, not as a once-champion bound by the pressure of living up to expectations, but as an athlete, solid in her technique, and an artist, passionately in love with the craft she’d perfected. And with the weight of all the demons of the past threatening to paralyze her, she skated to center ice with a calmness, an ease, that defied the odds and signified only one thing – the old Czisny was gone. The new Czisny was here, ready and determined to bring the house down…and to get her title back.
Facing similar demons, Ryan Bradley, convinced by his most loyal fans, took his place in Greensboro as the wildcard. He was the guy no one knew what to expect out of. He didn’t train like normal this year. He didn’t compete a single time. He hadn’t received the federation-sponsored evaluations, and he sometimes struggled to bring it when it really mattered. But for Ryan, none of that mattered. His goal was two fold:
1.) Entertain the audience that had talked him into this return in the first place,
Both Alissa and Ryan came to Greensboro with a focus that was contagious, and a new-found belief in themselves that was inspiring. While Ryan’s competition may not have gone exactly as planned, what he did was fight. He never forgot his goal, and he never gave in to the fears of the past that could have derailed him after the first two missed jumps.
Alissa, too, fought. She carefully executed each jump, one, two, three, four, getting stronger as the program progressed. When she spun into her step sequence, the look on her face said it all.
And now the world knew – she was a champion after all.
Two skaters, “old” by skating’s terms, decided early on to make this Nationals count. Two skaters, so far removed from their old selves, walked away as Champions.
Redemption, meet destiny.