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Sasha Cohen ready to jump back into competition

September 13, 2009 |  1:59 pm

Sasha Reporting from Chicago -- More than three years after she stepped away from competitive figure skating to skate in shows and launch an acting career, Turin silver medalist Sasha Cohen of Newport Beach is back at the rink six days a week and trying for her third Olympic team.

For Cohen, who finished fourth at Salt Lake City in 2002 and second at Turin despite falling on the first two jumps of her long program, it's not only about the gold medal. Cohen, who will be 25 in October, said her comeback is about testing her limits--and her capabilities will be sternly tested by a bunch of eager, teenage U.S. rivals at the U.S. championships in January in Spokane, Wash. If she earns one of the two U.S. women's Olympic berths, she'll have to surpass world champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea, Mao Asada of Japan and Joannie Rochette of Canada, among others.

"I've really been enjoying it. I've been training really hard and I'm really looking forward to this season and skating my new programs," Cohen said Saturday in the final event of the U.S. Olympic media summit. "There's some good days and some not so good days but I've been progressing every month and I'm very excited for the upcoming season."

Cohen is training in Lake Arrowhead with Rafael Arutunian, who formerly coached Michelle Kwan. Cohen said she chose Arutunian over her previous coach, John Nicks, because she wanted the technical expertise Arutunian can provide as she tries to improve her power and her jumping technique. She has always been known for her grace and remarkable flexibility--but also for her inability to put two clean programs together in competition. She will perform her short program to "Espana Cani," Spanish pasodoble music, and her long program to "Moonlight Sonata."

She said she has embraced the challenge of regaining her jumps--she said she has all of her triples back--and of pushing her limits, even if it has been taking her longer to build up to the kind of workload she used to do without a second thought when she was younger.

Her comeback, she said, "has to do with the fact that I realized that skating is my purpose in life for the moment. I missed that drive, that intensity, the meaning to my day, the good times, the bad times. I realized that I'm going to have 50 more years of my life to do other things."

Cohen will return to competing in the Grand Prix series at the Trophee Eric Bompard event, Oct. 15-18 in Paris. That's the first event in the six-competition series, and Kim and Asada are entered. Cohen's other Grand Prix assignment will be Skate America, at Lake Placid, N.Y., on Nov. 12-15. 

Asked to compare her present self to her old self, she didn't quite answer. "The future is new and I'm doing new things," she said, "and in some ways I'm better and in some ways I'm not as good yet. It will take me a little time to get used to everything again. My main goal is in January to be absolutely at my best and peak during the Olympics and have the performance of my life there."

Several other U.S. competitors said Friday that they welcomed her return because it would inspire them to compete harder, but Mirai Nagasu said she was intimidated by Cohen's return because Cohen is the most recent Olympic silver medalist and has so much experience. Cohen said she was "honored in a way that they would have that respect for me," but said she doesn't measure herself against others.

"It's what you can do with yourself and how you can be better," she said.

And if she can be good enough to win a gold medal, Cohen said, "it would be the triumph of my life."

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Sasha Cohen performs during Super Class on Ice in Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 2. Credit: Jeon Heon-Kyun / EPA