When the 2012 Grand Prix figure skating assignments were announced Monday, with Alissa Czisny getting just one competition rather than the two customary for a skater with her record, it looked as if U.S. Figure Skating might have been saying it felt the two-time U.S. champion is history.
After all, she imploded at the World Championships in late March, finishing 22nd after falling seven times in the two programs.
"It does appear that way," Czisny said of the lone Grand Prix assignment before going on to explain why things apparently aren't what they seem.
Czisny, who had been the leading U.S. woman in the 2010-11 season and in the Grand Prix last fall, told me Monday by telephone she will soon have surgery to repair a torn labrum in her left hip that was revealed in an MRI last week. She expects to on crutches for three or four weeks and off the ice for three months.
"I know the next question is going to be, `Why did I go to worlds?''' Czisny said. "If I knew I was injured, I wouldn't have gone.
"Looking back now, it might have occurred earlier, but I didn't feel it until I started skating again after I took two weeks off after worlds. At first, I thought it was just a strained muscle. But then I could barely do flip and lutz (jumps)."
Czisny did early May shows in South Korea, where she felt compelled to limit her skating to a degree that led her to a doctor upon returning to the U.S. As soon as the problem was diagnosed, she asked U.S. Figure Skating for the latest possible Grand Prix assignments and wound up with one - the circuit finale Nov. 23-25 in Japan.
"I still hope to get a second Grand Prix if I am ready and a spot opens up," she said.
Meanwhile, Gracie Gold, who may be the next big thing in U.S. women's figure skating, will make her senior Grand Prix debut in Canada.
And Evan Lysacek? The reigning men's Olympic champion, who has not competed since the 2010 Winter Games, still could fill the "TBA" U.S. men's spot at Skate America if his issues with U.S. Figure Skating are resolved.
Other highlights of the assignments for the six-event 2012 Grand Prix figure skating series announced Monday by the International Skating Union.
*Johnny Weir's comeback event will be in his home-away-from-home, Moscow.
*Miki Ando of Japan plans to return after a year off.
*Junior sensation Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia makes her senior debut in China, where a strong women's field includes the women who have won five of the last six world titles - Ando (2007, 2011) Carolina Kostner of italy (2012), and Mao Asada of Japan (2008, 2010).
*Mirai Nagasu, the top U.S. finisher at the 2010 Olympics (fourth) and 2008 U.S. champion, also got just one Grand Prix assignment after a poor 2011-12 season. That means she has no shot at competing in the Grand Prix Final at the 2014 Olympic rink in Sochi, Russia.
*Four other U.S. women - Gold, reigning U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, Caroline Zhang and Agnes Zawadzki - got two assignments each even though Wagner is the only one of that group to have finished higher than sixth in a senior Grand Prix event last season.
USFS spokesperson Barb Reichert said the organization's international committee would not comment on the assignments. Nagasu's agent, Yuki Saegusa, said she did not know if the skater had wanted a second assignment.
According to USFS, the top 12 finishers in each discipline at worlds are guaranteed two Grand Prix spots the next season; the top 24 in the ISU season or overall world rankings are guaranteed one.
Wagner (4th) was the lone U.S. woman in the top 12 at worlds. Czisny, Zhang, Zawadzki and Nagasu all made the top-24 criterion.
Gold, 16, won the U.S. junior title and finished second at junior worlds. Zhang, 19, rallied from two straight disastrous seasons (11th and 12th at nationals) to take fourth at nationals and win bronze at Four Continents. Two-time world junior medalist Zawadzki, who does not turn 18 until July, finished third at 2012 nationals and apparently still has a considerable upside.
Lipnitskaia, who turns 14 next month, a runaway winner of both the world junior championship and Junior Grand Prix last season, will face an even stronger field in Paris - Ando, Kostner, Wagner and another Russian phenom, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, 15, the top point-getter on the 2011 Grand Prix circuit.
Three-time U.S. champion Weir, who has not competed since the 2010 Olympics, also is scheduled to skate at the Paris Grand Prix.
"Can't wait to be back in the game, and it all starts in Mother Russia," Weir said in a Monday text message punctuated with a smiley face.
Russia's Evgeny Plushenko? The three-time Olympic medalist (silver-gold-silver) had knee surgery after winning last year's European title. He has no Grand Prix assignment but could fill the "TBA" Russian spot in Moscow.
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