Sasha Cohen’s Lasting Impact on the Sport of Figure Skating

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Sasha Cohen's Lasting Impact on the Sport of Figure Skating


Picture Supply: Getty / Al Bello / Employees

Figure skater Sasha Cohen is one of a number of athletes who reveal their struggles in the HBO documentary The Weight of Gold, now streaming on HBO and HBO Max. Whereas the movie is sobering, it is also a reminder that Cohen was one of the largest stars in determine skating throughout her profession — and for followers of the sport, it is simple to see her affect even in the present day.

Cohen is, in so some ways, the epitome of the golden age of American women’ determine skating. From the ’90s by way of the early ’00s, it was nearly anticipated that American girls can be on the podium at each occasion. Cohen was the final of this skating dynasty that additionally included greats like Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, Sarah Hughes, and Kimmie Meissner. In truth, after her bronze medal in 2006, American girls went a full decade with out medaling at the World Championships, till Ashley Wagner took house a silver medal in 2016. To this present day, Cohen stays the most up-to-date American lady to win an Olympic determine skating medal in women’ singles.

Her explicit type of skating is iconic — it is what we expect of once we assume of women’ skaters: lengthy, elegant strains; flexibility for unimaginable positions in spins; and sleek musicality. You may see parts of her type in some of the high American girls lately: Gracie Gold’s poised magnificence, Karen Chen’s unimaginable extensions, Wagner’s knack for musical interpretation. Cohen is one of the skaters who jogs my memory of why I fell in love with determine skating in the first place. I bear in mind, as somewhat lady, watching Ekaterina Gordeeva and Yamaguchi and Kwan and simply being in awe of what they might do. Their grace, their expressiveness. Cohen is the final of that period in skating, so rewatching her packages is bittersweet and nostalgic for me. The game is not prefer it was again then, and that is each good and dangerous.

Throughout her profession, Cohen broke scoring data not for her jumps however for her inventive parts and a spotlight to element.

Throughout her profession, Cohen broke scoring data not for her jumps however for her inventive parts and a spotlight to element. When the scoring system converted to the Worldwide Judging System — a extra detailed points-based system that assigns worth to parts, in addition to “grades of execution” — Cohen turned the first skater to obtain +three grades of execution on her spirals, and he or she additionally was the first lady to interrupt the 130-point barrier on a free skate. As we speak, you’ll be able to see her affect in the recognition of tough, arabesque spirals (proven above) and the “I-spin,” during which the skater’s free leg stretches all the approach up, forming an “I” form.

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 21:  Sasha Cohen of the United States performs during the women's Short Program of the figure skating during Day 11 of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games on February 21, 2006 at Palavela in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Picture Supply: Getty / Brian Bahr / Employees

Figure skating appears to be like somewhat totally different now, and the priorities of Cohen’s period have considerably pale into the background. Over time, the scoring system has shifted to reward jump-laden packages greater than artistically cohesive ones. Spirals are not significantly related to scores. And, consequently, women’ skating tends to favor small, very younger skaters whose our bodies can pull off countless triple jumps and even quads. For comparability, Cohen was 22 when she received her Olympic and World medals in 2006. The latest Olympic champion, Alina Zagitova, was three months shy of her 16th birthday when she received gold in 2018, and the previous few years have been largely dominated by a revolving door of teenage phenoms. Even in the US, it is Alysa Liu and her beautiful jumps which have prevailed for the previous two years, despite the fact that she was too younger by worldwide guidelines to even compete at Junior Worlds the yr she received her first senior nationwide title.

From this angle, Cohen was amongst the final of a dying type of skating — not a greater one, only a totally different one. Skaters in the present day won’t focus on the identical parts she did as a result of the judging system merely does not reward them as a lot. For followers like me, who fell in love with the sport’s distinctive mix of artistry and athleticism, it is irritating. Stunning skaters like 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner or, nearer to house, reigning US silver medalist Mariah Bell will at all times wrestle to pierce the high tier of skating, as a result of they do not have quad jumps of their packages.

As we speak, she’s modeling one thing much more vital for younger skaters: how you can discover goal and that means after their careers have ended.

Massive jumps put tiny, younger skaters at an insurmountable benefit, and it isn’t as a lot enjoyable to observe and get invested realizing that, as their our bodies mature or they turn into injured, each high skater will fall by the wayside, earlier than they’ve the alternative to develop distinctive artistry and character on the ice. Cohen, like many skaters of her period, had an extended profession, one during which followers might root for her to proceed growing as an athlete and a performer and sit up for what she would do subsequent. Shorter careers might produce greater methods, however they make the sport really feel emptier.

But it is laborious to disregard the proven fact that Cohen and the different skaters of her technology influenced in the present day’s athletes, who would have grown up trying as much as her. As we speak, she’s modeling one thing much more vital for younger skaters: how you can discover goal and that means after their careers have ended.



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