2006 U.S. Champion Sasha Cohen met with the press Sunday morning in Torino, Italy, one day after arriving in the city for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Cohen, a two-time World silver medalist, will be competing in the ladies competition, which begins at the Palavela arena on Feb. 21.
Q: We're pleased to be with two-time World silver medalist and 2006 U.S.
champion Sasha Cohen. Now that your coming into this Olympics as a medal
favorite, how is this different than 2002?
A: It's definitely a different experience being away from my home country. Just from the 12 hours I have been in the village, I've loved it. It's relaxing and inspiring at the same time. I'm really excited to get into the whole spirit of the Games.
You've done very well in competition away from your country:
"I think this time they’ll definitely be cheering for the Italians. But after that, I'm sure they will appreciate great sport and athletes. I think they'll be behind who ever skates well. I've performed all over the world and it makes no difference."
Reaction to Michelle Kwan withdrawing:
"I just found out. I was a little bit shocked. I haven't had much of a chance to formulate my thoughts. I know it's disappointing to have to withdraw. I know how tough it is to come back from injury and to get yourself together. It was great that she tried, but things don’t always work out."
With Michelle not being at nationals, there was speculation that it took some pressure off of you:
"I think at nationals I really was well trained. The more I compete, the more confident I feel. Going into the Games, it's such a strong international field that you can't really focus on one skater.
Will you be training in the mountains while here:
"I'll be going up tonight for either four or five days. I'm going to practice today at the main arena."
You've had to battle through health problems:
“I'm definitely feeling great now. I was proud of myself at nationals to be able to come through, skate well, finish with a strong program, without having practiced at all that week. It showed me how much I had in me and that I'm stronger than I think I am. That gives me a lot of confidence. I've trained really hard all year and I hope to finish up a strong season.”
Compare yourself to the way you felt four years ago:
“I've learned so much. Four years ago, I came in to my first major international event being very nervous, not really understanding training, tapering and how to handle international competition. Of course, I wanted to win. I was going to win the Olympics and that was it. I'm coming in as a much more experienced athlete, person. I've learned how to handle myself in competition. I've learned how to better prepare, physically, emotionally, mentally for competition. I'm going into this to enjoy it, soak it up and to have a great time with it because I think that's when I'm going to skate my best. My focus is on the process and not on the results.
Expand on knowing how to handle the competition:
"I've learned what to think and what not to think. We learn that the training beforehand gives you confidence. Try to do your warm-ups, when to take days off, just what to do and that comes through experience and trial and error."
Expectations are high. Compare that to the times people expected more and how that relates to mental attitude.
"I always expect the best of myself. That gives me the best platform to perform at my potential. I've been working really hard with the mental career, especially the past four years. Hard work plays off. I'm proud of myself personally and the huge accomplishments and improvements every year."
Did you spend time in the village the last time and your thoughts on the judging system?
"The last time I spent maybe two nights in the village during opening ceremonies. After I finished competing, I stayed for the rest of the time. As far as the judging system, I think it's great because it emphasizes quality and gives credit to spins, spirals and footwork whereas before it was just a check mark. It emphasizes skaters who try to build points instead of just trying to not make a mistake."
How does the withdrawal of Michelle Kwan affect your mental and emotional preparation?
"I think in a way it kind of humanizes the sport. She is someone who has been an icon, always been there and she always has competed and done well. To see that people can be at the top of a sport and still have hard times, just humanizes it for other athletes to know that there are good times and there are bad times. You have to deal with what life gives you. For me, that never was an issue. It has been about my performance and to stay confident."
Your marks in competition and refinements to program:
"At nationals I pretty much got all the levels I was aiming for. I changed a few things, but mainly I worked on quality and trying to get points on good execution."
How is it to get out of Michelle Kwan's shadow?
"I'm used to answering whatever questions come my way. A lot of Michelle questions aren't the hardest. It comes with the sport. It's competition. People want to know about your competitors. Ultimately, I have to shift my focus away from other people and onto myself."
Describe your program compared to 2002:
“My program is tailored to the new judges system where the old one was not. I'm coming here to skate my best, enjoy it and have a great time. The field is strong with good skaters from Japan, Russia and Italy."
You pride yourself on perfection:
"I've always been a great competitor and I needed to work on myself in practice. I've learned to work on working and not to be overly thoughtful of the result, just let things bounce off, let the emotion subside and to just work hard. I've made leaps and bounds in that and I'm a much better athlete."
How does coach John Nicks help?
“It's a walk in the park for him. He helps me relax; he's been here 10 times. He gives me great confidence. We've known each other for ever."
Working with David Wilson:
“I love working with David. I think it's an amazing program. We've changed the opening. Everyone gave me great feedback at nationals."
What do you like to see in different countries?
"When I travel, I'm a huge gourmet so I love fine Italian restaurants. Finding pastry shops is fun for me. I love Paris, I love Italy, I was in Tuscany with my family last year. I had a great time, I went to Rome, Venice, so Italy has a lot of positive things for me."
What do you want from this Olympics?
"I want to enjoy the process because I haven't worked four years of my life to close the chapter and enjoy 20 minutes at a ceremony and two days to possibly hang that medal on a wall and not to be happy again until I win again. I want to enjoy each day, to enjoy the tournament. Of course I want to skate great and I think the best way to make that happen is take the pressure off and enjoy it."