After a Frustrating Summer, Cohen Ready for Smart Ones Skate America

by Mikel Bowman
Sasha Cohen
Photo by Paul Harvath

(10/13/04) - Most of the world's elite skaters spent the past summer putting together new programs and adding skills to their repertoire. Sasha Cohen, last year's silver medalist at both the State Farm U.S. Championships and World Figure Skating Championships, spent the summer relocating to New York City with her family to be closer to her training facility in New Jersey and tending to an infected left ankle.

Not exactly the script Cohen's coach, Robin Wagner, would have written.

Despite the time these distractions took away from Cohen's training (she typically trains six days a week, four to five hours per day), Cohen placed third in her first event of the 2004-05 season, the Campbell's International Figure Skating Classic, and says she feels confident heading into 2004 Smart Ones Skate America, which will get underway Wednesday, Oct. 21 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

"Skate America is an important event because it starts out the Grand Prix season," Cohen said. "I'm in pretty good shape. I won't have as complicated a program as I will when I go to nationals and Worlds, but I'm definitely ready."

Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena will serve as the host venue for the four-day competition, which will feature the new ISU judging system. Under the new system, points are awarded for a technical score combined with points awarded for five additional components - skating skills, transitions, performance/execution, choreography/composition and interpretation.

The new system is designed to place less of an emphasis on jumping and more focus on overall skating skills, and Cohen is anxious to take her program for a test drive.

"No matter how much you read the rules, you never really know it until you get there and see what the judges put down on paper," Cohen said. "I'm excited about the new system because it gives me a chance to be more creative, and it's a scoring system that the fans can relate to."

As she did at the Campbell's Classic, Cohen will once again be skating her "Nutcracker" free skate (choreographed by Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband), which she says compliments her style of skating. She will skate to "Dark Eyes," choreographed by Nikoli Morozov, in her short program. To take advantage of the new scoring system, Cohen and Wagner are working on adding more complex entries and crossovers.

In addition to the transition work, Cohen is also striving to add a triple-triple combination to her routine to keep pace with the ever-increasing jumping abilities in the ladies field - especially the Japanese skaters. Fans hoping to see Cohen land a quad though will just have to wait, as her harried summer prevented her from spending the time needed to perfect this most difficult of maneuvers.

Even without the quad, Cohen appears primed for another excellent season.

"Robin (Wagner) really encourages me to keep pushing forward," Cohen said. "Every competition I do well at gives me confidence, and every one I don't do well at gives me experience."

Wagner's plan is to continue to build upon Cohen's programs and fine tune the performances so she reaches her peak by the time the 2005 State Farm U.S. Championships and World Championships roll around, much like she did last season. Skate America will provide the two a valuable opportunity to work out the nuances of the new judging system and adjust Cohen's "Nutcracker" program to benefit from the scoring intricacies.

Of course, as she's stated many times in the past, Cohen is looking well beyond this season.

"I'm already thinking of the Olympics and what I need to do," Cohen said. "To do well there it's going to take great preparation, a program that takes full advantage of the new scoring system, and me skating my best."

Skate America is not the Olympics, but it is an important step along the path to Torino, and it's an event that Cohen hopes will help her discover exactly what she needs to do to beat the top ladies skaters in the world. It will also mark the beginning of the end of a summer that included an injury, a stressful move, and an overdose of frustration.

A summer that Cohen is ready, willing and eager to put where it belongs - in the past.