American figure skater Sasha Cohen spoke publicly for the first time on Friday after announcing her intention to begin competing again, including a bid for the podium at next year's Vancouver Olympics.
"I'm so excited to be back and just to do this again," Cohen said Friday. "I missed having a challenge to step up to and say, 'Am I capable of this? Can I do this? What are my limits? What can I become?'
"I know I would regret so much if I didn't come back and challenge myself and see what I can do."
Cohen won silver at the 2006 Torino Olympics behind surprise winner Shizuka Arakawa of Japan. Cohen led after the short program at the Olympics, as she did at the world championships in Calgary that followed later in the season, only to lose to fellow American Kimmie Meisner.
Burnt out at the end of that year, Cohen took a break from competition to explore other interests, including acting. But she left open the possibility of returning for the Vancouver Games and stayed in shape by headlining the Smuckers Stars on Icetour.
Her return to competition was announced earlier this week. She said Friday she's been working with new coach Rafael Arutunian for six months and has already seen an improvement in her jumps. She was doing triples with ease at a show last month and said she's "very close" to doing the triple-triple combinations she'll need to compete with Yu-na Kim and Mao Asada.
Cohen, who will be 25 by the time of the Olympics, will seek an invite for the Grand Prix events, which begin in October.
"You don't want to go just to be your best; you want to be the best," Cohen said. "There are amazing skaters out there, technically and artistically. That's great, though, because great skaters bring out the best in you.
"I'm excited for the challenge, I'm excited to start with the Grand Prixs and see where I'm at."
Her strength has always been her artistry and expression, and some feel that has lessened in importance under the current judging system. But Cohen has experience in this system — did very well in it, in fact — and said it's all a matter of knowing how to put the programs together.
"She's aware of what it takes to be at the top, and I think that's a great plus for her," Raith said. "She's knowledgeable, extremely talented, and we look forward to her participation."
Fear of failure won't keep Cohen out of competition
Cohen's return could be a boost for the entire sport, particularly for the Americans.
U.S. women have claimed at least one medal — including a total of seven gold — at every Winter Games since 1952 except in 1964, which came three years after a plane crash killed the entire U.S. team.
But the Americans have struggled without Cohen and Michelle Kwan, who also hasn't skated since 2006. The U.S. women failed to win a medal at the world championships in March, the third straight year they've gone home empty-handed.
Worse, Rachael Flatt and Alissa Czisny's combined placement was only good enough to earn the Americans two spots in Vancouver. It's only the second time since 1924 the United States has failed to earn the maximum three spots. The other was in 1994.
That will make Cohen's goal of getting to Vancouver even harder, but she insists she's up for the challenge.
"This is what I want to do," she said, "and fear of failure is not going to stop me from trying."
Cohen was skating in Calgary on Friday night as the tour winds down. She will then take two weeks off to let tendinitis in her left ankle heal and get some rest.
Then it's back to training with Arutunian, who has worked with Kwan and Asada, in Lake Arrowhead, Calif.
"I'm just really excited to have this purpose in my life again," Cohen said. "I love the whole tidal wave that comes, pushing you into the Olympic Games. I love the way America supports its athletes, and I love the way everyone loves to watch figure skating in the Olympics.
"This whole magic behind the Olympic Games is just absolutely incredible."