ISU president: Sasha was 'Santa' in 2006
LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- After I had finished talking with International Olympic Committee member Ottavio Cinquanta last week about his opinion on Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, I asked Cinquanta to put on his other hat for a different question:
As president of the International Skating Union, what did he think of U.S. skater Sasha Cohen's decision to return to competitive figure skating after a three-year hiatus?
"It is a good decision for the ISU and for her,'' Cinquanta said. "I think she wasted a year, because she could have come back earlier, but one year is not the end of the world.''
Cinquanta hopes Cohen will be a different skater from the one whose free skate failures cost her the 2006 Olympic and world titles. She was first going into the free skate both times but wound up second in the Olympics and third at worlds.
"The Sasha I saw in Calgary [worlds] and in Torino [Olympics] was not Sasha Cohen but Santa Claus,'' Cinquanta said, feeling that Cohen had given away those gold medals. "Maybe she will come back with a different attitude. She was terrified.
"I believe the era of Sasha Cohen as loser when [she was] the favorite is over. Now we can have the Sasha Cohen era as a strong skater with more experience. If she wanted experience as a loser, she has enough.''
Cohen's first scheduled competition in her comeback is the French Grand Prix event Oct. 15-18. She also plans to compete at Skate America in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Nov. 12-15 and at the U.S. Championships in January, when the 2010 Olympic team will be selected. Only two women's spots are available.
*More Olympic figure skating? The success of a team event (World Team Trophy) held this spring in Tokyo has led Cinquanta to consider such a competition in the Olympics.
He said a team event would come before the individual competitions in singles, pairs and dance.
"The [national] federations could use the same skaters [in individual events] or not,'' he said.
It is possible the ISU would test such an event at worlds before asking to have it included on an Olympic program. It could not happen before the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
-- Philip Hersh
Sasha Cohen tumbling during her free skate at the 2006 Olympics. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)