Alexandra Pauline Cohen
At the 2002 Games, an Olympics which will be remembered for the scandals in the figure-skating judging -- one fixed decision that favored Russians was so blatantly unfair that it was changed days later -- Cohen was denied a medal that many felt she clearly deserved. She was placed fourth, despite outskating all her competitors except Gold medalist (and teammate) Sarah Hughes. The Russian Irina Slutskaya was awarded a silver medal even though she skated what the New York Times accurately described as “a clumsy program.” In contrast, Times reporter Selena Roberts referred to Sasha “flashing into airtight spins and displaying the limberness of string cheese on her mind-bending split jumps. Even so, her marks were in the 5.7 range, ultimately placing her fourth. For the last two months, Cohen, 17, had been the buzz of figure skating, taking Hughes's place as teenage wonder after finishing second to Kwan at the national championships.” (The New York Times, February 22, 2002)
In one sense, Cohen accomplished a great deal by even competing so fiercely for a medal. She entered the Olympics with no international profile or notable experience, and thus was not accorded the deference given to more experienced skaters by the panel of judges.
In March 2004, Sasha won her first medal in a major global event when she took silver at the 2004 World Championships. In January 2005, she finished second to Michelle Kwan in the U.S, Nationals (it was Kwan's record-tying ninth National crown) and qualified for the World Championships.
Peggy Fleming, the legendary 1968 Olympic champion, said Sasha now has everything: "A beautiful body, beautiful smile, angelic face -- she has the most beautiful lines I've seen in skating next to John Curry. They are pure and look natural, not taught. She has incredible extension. The technique is there." Asked whether Cohen reminded her of her youthful self, Fleming replied, "In my dreams."
"Out of the 1,100 figure skaters I’ve taught, Sasha Cohen is one of the most talented lady skaters...But talent alone is not enough. There are ten to eleven criteria that make a champion. Nobody has all of them, but Sasha has most. There is a very good chance that she will be one of the three women who will represent the United States in the next Olympic Games." That ringing endorsement from her coach John Nicks in 2000 reflected the expectations placed on Cohen. On January 12, 2002, Sasha met those expectations when she won the silver medal at the U.S. Championships and qualified for the Olympic Games at the age of 17.
Cohen, who originally was a gymnast, began skating at the age of seven but she did not take the sport seriously until she was 10. By then she had learned the single axel, the double salchow, and the double toe loop. By the age of 11 (1995), she had mastered all the double jumps except the double axel, which she mastered during her Novice year. Over the next couple of years, Cohen improved and became of the United States' best Junior skaters. In 1999, she finished a strong second in the Juniors at the U.S. National Championships. She was chosen for the U.S. Figure Skating Association Team B for the 1999-2000 season, which allowed her to compete in two international competitions.
Since 1999, Cohen's star has been on the rise in the skating world. After finishing sixth at the 1999 Junior World Championships, she hoped to finish in the top four in the 2000 U.S. Senior Championships. Cohen surpassed her own expectations, finishing first in the short program, second in the long program, and second overall, to win the silver medal. Nicks said: "Placing second in the U.S. Championships changed Sasha's whole life...it put her at a new level."
After missing the the 2001 U.S. Championships because of a back injury, Cohen took the silver at the 2002 Championships and qualified for the Olympic Games. She has mighty aspirations, and lots of confidence: "I would like to win the Worlds, then the Olympics and then retire from skating. But then when I think about it, it might be hard to leave skating when I'm still at my peak. But, I have to work very hard before I get there. It's only a little over a year from now. I need to be more consistent, I need to skate faster, and I need to perfect a triple-triple combination."
In November, 2002, she won Skate Canada; and in January, 2003, Cohen placed third at the U.S. Championships, then captured a place on the U.S. team in the World Championships, held in March, 2003. Cohen said of her performace at the Nationals, "I had a good strong first half and I was kind of disappointed with the end...I should have done it. I wish I could go out and do it again, but I can't. I wasn't that tired. I felt good going through it and I just was not strong enough, especially with the toe loop. I guess I wasn't focused enough on that. I can't really give you an answer why it was not the performance that I wanted, but I gotta go home, take this with me and work harder and not let that happen again."
On March 2, 2003, Cohen defeated Irina Slutskaya, the defending world champion, to win the Grand Prix Final in St. Petersburg, Russia. The New York Times story on the event (by Sal Zanca, March 3, 2003) quoted Sasha as saying afterwards that "This competition, the most important thing I learned was to skate against myself and not against everyone else. The most difficult thing was going out to do a program with everyone watching, all the pressure and not crumble under pressure. It wasn't perfect," she observed, "but I am getting where I want to be. I am still looking for that best skate of mine." She added, "I am a better competitor this year. I feel I am smarter. I learned more and I know to handle myself on the ice. I learned not to doubt myself."
The foundation for Cohen's dynamic new approach was established at the end of August 2002, when she moved to Avon, Connecticut, to train with Tatiana Tarasova, a Russian who has coached 12 Olympic champions. With new, more rigorous training, Cohen built up her strength and conditioning.
On October 3, 2003, Sasha defeated archrival Michelle Kwan, who had won the world championship five times in eight years. They competed in the International Figure Skating Classic, a one-night competition involving six men and six women from the United States, Japan, and Russia. Sasha's stunning spins received scores from all five judges of 5.8 for technical merit and 5.9 for presentation.
Cohen followed this triumph with another important victory, this time winning the women's title in the Skate America competition on October 25, 2003. On the day before her 19th birthday, Sasha rewarded herself by completing six triple jumps and compiling a two-day total of 197.35 points. Less than a month later (on November 15), Cohen skated a technically daring program to win the women's singles title at the Lalique Trophy for her third Grand Prix victory of the season. Skating to the music of "Swan Lake,'' Sasha completed two sets of triple-double jump combinations in the opening seconds.
At the U.S. Nationals held on January 10, 2004, Cohen captured the silver medal, just weeks after she began training with a new coach. Cohen parted ways with the ailing Tatiana Tarasova, citing Tarasova's inability to devote the time Sasha needed to guide her talent to the next level, and signed on with Robin Wagner, who had coached Sarah Hughes to Olympic gold in 2002.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Oct. 26, 1984