Big Skating News: Sasha Cohen's Back, Dazzling U.S. Nationals

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Remember Sasha Cohen? She made the U.S. Olympic team in 2002 and finished fourth, just behind Michelle Kwan. In 2006, she was the Olympic favorite and she took home the silver medal. She hasn't competed since the 2006 World Championships and now she's back, looking like she never left competitive figure skating.

This week, the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships is taking place in Spokane Washington. The men and pairs already competed. Now the ladies are up, finishing off the Olympic team for Vancouver, just weeks away. As I don't have unlimited funds to go cover the event in Spokane, I watched the Short Program on the Universal Sports Thursday night, not really believing Sasha Cohen could pull off a comeback like Evgeni Plushenko.

When the TV coverage began, the first few groups of competitors had already skated, including Mirai Nagasu and Rachel Flatt, the 2008 U.S. gold and silver medalists. Once the results came up, I found that they were already in first and second place before the TV coverage began, and I learned that Alissa Czisny, the 2009 champion, skated poorly. As those three would have been the expected top contenders, then the question became: what of Sasha Cohen, Ashley Wagner and Emily Hughes, who was also attempting a comeback?

Amanda Dobbs of San Jose skated first in the group shown on TV. She's also one of the pairs skaters, so she had a long week. Looking like Cinderella in her gorgeous blue dress with her blond hair in a bun, she skated gracefully. Her light, effortless style and brilliant smile lit up the ice. Even trying to get my four year-old daughter to stop hugging the television, I was able to see Dobbs sparkle.

As the Short Program gives random draws to who skates when, there were a few other skaters in the mix who ranked fairly low, and I enjoyed watching them, but I admit I got sucked into the Twitter chatter about Sasha Cohen. I couldn't help it - all my online skating pals were so excited to see her again.

Sasha had a wobbly warm-up, and I feared the worst. I didn't want to see her fail, and I was pleasantly surprised when it literally looked like she hadn't missed a day from competitive skating. She skated not only a beautiful, clean program, but her form was spectacular. Still, there's no one with the perfect flexibility she has. Sasha's spiral was in classic form, a perfect split, her split jump was light as a feather, and her jumps were great. There was some concern she may have been a tad off on the rotation of one of them, but the judges gave her credit. These computer things they use with the new judging system don't lie.

Emily Hughes, who competed in Torino and finished in 7th there, skated in a sleek black dress and looked really good, but she doubled her triple lutz, losing out on a significant number of potential points and moving into 7th place at that point in the event. It's too bad, because she did have a shot given the power of her other jumps. I don't think she has a chance at the team now, but I never really thought she had mastered the new system in the way that some of the younger skaters have. Still, you have to give her credit for taking a year out of Harvard to try one more time to make the Olympic team.

Ashley Wagner skated last. Looking strong at the start, she took a rough fall on her triple lutz, pretty much negating her chances of making the Olympic team. She would have to skate an incredible Free Skate and overcome a significant point spread, along with most likely needing the leaders to make major mistakes in the Free. However, rankings-wise, she's in fourth going into the long program. That's where Sarah Hughes was in the 2002 Olympics and she won.

If you want to see the Short Program, it will be shown on NBC at 8pm Friday night. Please join me live tweeting the Free Skate Saturday night at 11pm (watching on the Universal Sports network) Pacific via @segsk8. And I'll be blogging about the final event as soon as it's over. The NBC coverage is Sunday at 1pm Pacific. The U.S. Olympic Committee will meet, probably on Sunday, to make the team official. This is it - the U.S. Olympic team will be named in the next three days!


Sarah Granger blogs here and there. She used to skate. Now she just dreams about it.


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