Cohen and Kwan in the Medal Hunt at World Championshipsby Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
|Sasha Cohen at the 2005 World Championships|
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
(3/18/05) — Sasha Cohen has managed to stay relatively under the radar since January's State Farm U.S. Championships. At that event she was sandwiched between two momentous achievements — Michelle Kwan's ninth U.S. title and Kimmie Meissner's triple Axel. Cohen quietly won the silver medal, and since then the skating world hasn't heard much from her.
Meissner dealt with all the media attention en route to the World Junior Championships, and Kwan faced media questions about her lack of exposure to the new judging system.
Cohen, meanwhile, slipped into Moscow unheralded without a major story line attached to her. So far, it looks like it's been a good thing for the reigning World silver medalist. She won her qualifying group on Wednesday, and she finished second in today's short program to move a step closer to winning her second World medal. She's currently second overall, less than three points behind Russia's Irina Slutskaya, who won the short.
Kwan made an excellent comeback, showing the form for which she is famous. She finished third in the short program and is in the medal hunt with a fifth-place overall standing.
While much attention has been focused on Kwan's first experience with the new judging system, Cohen has been competing under the system for two years. Last year at Worlds, Cohen was leading entering the free skate under the old 6.0 system.
“I think with the new system it is always better to be first because every point counts,” Cohen said. “If you are in second you have nothing to lose and it is a different mentality going it.”
The top three point-getters in the short program — Slutskaya, Cohen and Kwan — had similar elements, but the new scoring system showed how little things make a difference. Both Slutskaya and Cohen made two minor, but noticeable mistakes, while Kwan's routine was without a technical mistake. Slutskaya and Cohen offset their mistakes with more difficult spins.
Slutskaya faltered on her jump combination and final spin. Cohen had trouble on a triple flip and a spiral. Cohen also lost points when her music ended and she didn't.
“It's so frustrating because the last spin was going so well and I was just doing it for too long,” she said. “It's all about points, and I need to make sure that I don't give up even one point.”
But she knows the system.
“You just have to keep reading the rules and doing what it says in the book,” Cohen said. “What constitutes a level, how much jumps are worth and how long you have to hold some things. We had two callers come in (during her practices at home). We were just really active about what counts for what. It is a counting game.”
Right now the counting is in favor of Slutskaya with 92.61 total points. Cohen has 89.78 points. Kwan is fifth with 86.21, and above her are Italy's Carolina Kostner with 87.27 and Japan's Miki Ando with 86.96.
Kwan knows about counting now.
“It's funny because (with) the spiral sequence I'm so used to just letting it go and not worrying about holding it once through or twice through and counting, but I think I did that more today and helped it,” Kwan said.
|Michelle Kwan at the 2005 World Championships|
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
“The new judging system was not a problem,” she said. “Of course, it was new for me, but I just skated, and there is only so much you can worry about. I have analyzed the system, [and] I modified some elements according to levels.”
Kwan drew the first position in the final group for Saturday's free skate. Cohen will skate third and Slutskaya last.
The title will not be decided until the final seconds as Slutskaya, who has struggled with health problems the last two years, may be vulnerable to overexertion.
Before her short program began, she appeared to be breathing heavily as she stood at the rink edge. She was clearly tired after the program.
“It's a big load. I feel really tired,” Slutskaya said.
She uses an inhaler to help increase oxygen supply to her blood stream.
“I have had a lot of competitions this season and I feel my illness,” Slutskaya said. “But I can deal with it.”
Despite the stresses, her program to tango music was playful with intricate footwork and difficult spins. She had to do a three-turn on the opening triple Lutz but stayed on one foot and added a double toe.
Skating to Russian favorite “Dark Eyes” (Ochi Chornoye), Cohen lost points on her triple flip.
“I let some mistakes creep in that cost me some points,” she said.
Kwan's routine to “Spartacus” had all the standard elements — triple Lutz-double toe, triple flip and double Axel. However her layback was graded level one, while Slutskaya had a level three.
“I know I have a lot to pick up for the long program,” Kwan said. “This was a learning experience for me.''
But Cohen can't wait.
“I am already ready for it right now,” she said. “I want to go out there and just nail everything.”
For Jennifer Kirk is was another rough skate. Using her lively routine to music from “Chicago” for the second straight year, she fell on her triple flip and is 16th overall.
“I am upset with the fall on the flip,” she said. “I do not know what happened. It did not feel as if there was anything wrong with it. The hard thing about a short program is to leave the mistake behind and keep fighting. I think I am learning to do it, but it is still hard.”