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Fill-in Czisny finishes 2nd in Skate America

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ATLANTIC CITY -- Alissa Czisny has a French test tonight at Bowling Green University in Ohio. She already has passed a big test in Skate America.

Subbing for injured Sasha Cohen, the 18-year-old Czisny won the free skate Saturday night and finished second overall to Russia's Elena Sokolova in the international Grand Prix series opener.

"I spend most of my time skating and going to school," says the Bowling Green sophomore, an international studies major on full academic scholarship at her hometown school.

Czisny learned she was going to Skate America a week ago today. She was coming off a disappointing skate in the Campbell's International Figure Skating Classic this month in St. Paul, where she had three falls and finished fifth out of six.

"I just learned that I had to focus on my jumps and not think about anything else but the jump that I'm doing at that time," she says.

She fell on a triple flip Saturday, but that was her lone spill. She racked up points with her spirals and spins, including the Bielman spin in which she grasps the blade of her skate and raises the skate behind her head.

Czisny led the 10-woman field in the free skate with 106.48 points under the new scoring system. Along with her 52.82 in the short program (third best), she totaled a personal best 159.30.

Next up for Czisny is Skate Canada, which begins Thursday.

Comeback: Emily Hughes, who bounced back in the free skate to finish fifth overall in her Grand Prix debut, is recovering in another way.

The 16-year-old from Great Neck, N.Y., sister of 2002 Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes, was hospitalized for a week in early August with viral meningitis.

"I had a really horrible headache, and I got a 104 temperature," she says. "So I had to go to the hospital, and they took a spinal tap and a CAT scan on my brain just to make sure everything was OK. It was sort of scary. I wasn't really thinking about skating at all."

In her Skate America short program, she fell twice and placed eighth. But she was fourth in the free skate, with a fall on a triple lutz.

She was cheered on by her parents and four of five siblings. Sarah is at Yale and doing ice shows.

Plushenko update: Three-time world champion Evgeny Plushenko, who had surgeries in April to repair two hernias, is scheduled to make his debut Nov.24-27 in the Cup of Russia in St. Petersburg.

"He has two big scars on his stomach, and it took quite awhile before he started really getting back on the training schedule. ... But he looks good. He's out of pain," says his agent, Ari Zakarian.

Triple trouble: Timothy Goebel had three planned triple jumps turn to singles that dropped him to eighth in the free skate.

"I never popped that many things in a program. ... I honestly don't know what happened. ... But I can guarantee it will not happen again," the two-time world silver medalist and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist says.

He finished sixth overall.

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