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Cohen silences doubters with thrilling performance

Comeback kid trails Nagasu by just .43 after short

Sasha Cohen's chances at making her third Olympic team got a boost on Thursday night.
Sasha Cohen's chances at making her third Olympic team got a boost on Thursday night. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/22/2010) - Yesterday, John Nicks told reporters all Sasha Cohen had to do to be in contention for another U.S. title was "stay on her feet."

Tonight, she did that and more, landing her jumps with aplomb and rousing the crowd with exciting footwork, beautifully extended spirals and a high Russian split. With 69.63 points, she's just .43 behind leader Mirai Nagasu.

"She knows how to put a program out and how to communicate with the judges and audience," Nicks, who has coached Cohen since she was a little girl, said.

Cohen's placement prompted the question: with just two U.S. ladies spots up for grabs, where would the reigning Olympic silver medalist have to finish in Spokane to be named to the Olympic team?

In the mixed zone, a happy and relieved Cohen said it wasn't about the result, it was about the journey.

"To me, the big accomplishment is being here, and if I skate well in the long, that's what I want," she said.

"I've been to two Olympics, and I would love to go a third time, but it's not the end-all of my life. I hope I do make the team, but for me the accomplishment is being here."

The 25-year-old was well aware of the skepticism many in the skating community had about her showing up in Spokane after withdrawing from two Grand Prix events, Trophee Eric Bompard and Skate America, with tendonitis. At times, she even doubted herself.

"When I was injured and skating awful, you want to be here, but you are how you feel that day," she said. "I've had a lot of ups-and-downs. But I believed in myself because I had some great moments, some great days in training and I was able to keep putting them together."

Other skaters, including the short program leader, were respectful, if not awed.

"I think its very impressive that even after four years [Cohen] hasn't lost her competitive strength, and just having the ability to pull it together after not competing this season, proves she's a skating icon," Nagasu said.

Of course, as Cohen herself said, "It's not over until it's over." Too often in her career, a clean short has not preceded a clean long. Nicks, who knows the skater better than anyone, had a few words of caution:

"It was an extraordinary short, but it was just a start."