Monday, July 23, 2007

MCBias Interviews: Alissa Czisny

For years, I have been fascinated by how an athlete (or really, a person in any walk of life) can improve performance. I am not very interested in how a Lebron James or Peyton Manning can be such a great athlete. I am more interested in how a Gilbert Arenas or Tom Brady learns to be a superstar. So when I had a chance to interview an up-and-coming athlete, I jumped at the chance. Today's interview subject is Alissa Czisny, an American figure skater. I confess that I am not as informed about figure skating as some of my readers may be, so I focused on questions of how an athlete works their way up in a sport. I appreciate Alissa being gracious enough to answer my questions, and hope that you readers will be similarly gracious in your comments.

*Fan Questions:*

I think that sometimes us fans forget how much joy there is for an athlete in a good performance. What has been your most joyful moment in figure skating?
One of my favorite moments in my skating career was this past Nationals long program performance. It was a favorite program of mine, and I had skated the best I had ever skated that program. I was so excited to win the long program at Nationals and to make my first World team!

As your performances have improved in the past few years, you have
received more media and fan attention. I was wondering how you feel about
that? It must feel really great to hear people cheering when your name is
announced, but it is human nature to start feeling more obligations and
pressure as well. As a young figure skater, do you get coaching on dealing
with fans and media? And this is a good time to thank you again for making
time for my questions!

A couple of years ago, when I first started getting media attention, I began to feel that extra pressure. It affected some of my competitions, but I've begun to learn how to deal with the pressure. It is exciting, though, to hear people cheering my name and to know that they are supporting me.

*On the Ice:*

I would be amiss in not asking a question I suspect my lady readers would like to ask, ha. Of the outfits you've worn over the years, which is your personal favorite?

One of my favorite dresses that I've worn is this past year's long program dress. It is just a simple dress, but yet so elegant.

What would it mean to you if you made the US team for the 2010 Olympics?

It would mean a great deal to me if I made the 2010 Olympics. My goal is to compete at those Olympic games, and I work each day to make that team.

Being an Olympic athlete, how do you keep yourself from getting too excited or too depressed during a performance or in the time leading up to big competitions? It seems to me that emotional control is very important for figure skaters. Or, do you find that you do best when you let your emotions out?

I agree that emotional control is very important for figure skaters. When we let our emotions rule, it is hard to control our performances. Keeping calm and focused is best before and during a competition. However, we can let emotions come out in the choreography of a program (assuming that they are appropriate to the choreography and character of the program).

Your twin sister Amber was once a figure skater herself. If you had a chance to skate a duet together, what song would you choose?

Hmm, that is a hard question to answer, but I do know that she would probably choose the song and choreograph it. She wants to become a figure skating choreographer, and has already started, so I think that she would be best doing that. Only once, did we ever actually skate a duet together, when we were about ten years old. It was to the song "Wipe Out"!

When training, how do you balance creativity and artistry with the need
for flawless execution and repetition? And which part of skating do you
enjoy more?

It's hard to say whether I enjoy the repetition or the artistry of skating more. Usually, the beginning of the season is filled with new choreography and steps, so there is less repetition and more creativity. I enjoy that, but I also enjoy the repetition of training jumps and programs, which brings a satisfaction of accomplishment.

I read a book on figure skating, written about a decade ago, that mentioned how tight-knit the figure skating community is. Do the top figure skaters know each other well, and if so, which figure skating competitor has most impressed you?

I think that the figure skating community is a very close group. We gain so many friends through the years that we spend skating, and stay close to those friends. I have made so many friends through the years that I have been skating, and I am thankful for all those friends. I look up to Kurt Browning and Brian Boitano especially, because they have been so helpful in passing along their advice to me. Both of them, and also Scott Hamilton, are so humble and friendly, and it impresses me that their accomplishments have not changed them.

*Off the Ice:*

Other than figure skating, what is your favorite sport to watch or play?

I enjoy bike riding, rock climbing, playing tennis, and taking dance classes. I like to watch gymnastics, dance, and tennis, although I rarely watch sports.

I think one of the underappreciated things sports does for a person is that it strengthens one's ability to concentrate. What lessons have you learned as to how to switch focus from a hard figure skating practice to your classwork?

I agree that sports can increase a person's concentration. I feel that I am able to use the same concentration in my schoolwork as I use in my skating. Also, I have learned that when I am doing one, I cannot think about the other, or I will get little accomplished.

Speaking of school, what is the most interesting fact or concept you have learned in school in the past month?

Actually, I haven't been in school this past month. I have not taken any summer classes, so I've been out of school for a couple of months. But, I'm looking forward to taking, among other courses, a course in public relations. I think that it could be useful in my skating career.

What is your favorite language?

Besides English (of course!), I enjoy learning French!

Choosing to excel at anything means that you have to give other hobbies lower priority. If you were not skating at this point in your life, what would you like to do?

I've often thought about what I would do if I did not skate, but I have never been able to figure out what I would rather do. I obviously have other interests and hobbies, but figure skating has been a part of my life for so long, that I do not know what I would do if I didn't skate.

You have mentioned in previous interviews that you are a Christian, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to interview you, being one myself. How do you keep figure skating from becoming too much of an idol in your life? It seems like it would be easy to become overly obsessed with it.

I think that God has given me this gift of skating to use for His glory and His benefit, and I try to make sure that what I'm doing will glorify Him. I believe that He has put me where I am to be a testimony to others, and I try to remember that wherever I go.

And finally, how has your Christian faith enriched your skating experience and life in general?

I think that my Christian faith has not only given me a purpose in life, but has also given me a purpose in my skating. It keeps me grounded, as well as giving me perspective in my skating.

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