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Wednesday, October 13, 2010
What's next for Sasha Cohen?

By Bonnie D. Ford

PHILADELPHIA -- Sasha Cohen, wearing pearls to dress up a velour hoodie, is sipping coffee in a café in the bohemian Philly enclave of Manayunk. A rolling suitcase nearly as big as she is sits at her feet and a silver stretch limo will soon pull over to the curb across the street, ready to wait as long as need be.

This is the second stop in a day that will take Cohen from the Jersey shore all the way to Boston to promote "The Caesars Tribute: A Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating" show on Dec. 11 in Atlantic City. Cohen turns a mere 26 later this month and it's odd to think of her as part of figure skating's past, but the reality is that she's embarking on the first October of the rest of her life.

Sasha Cohen
Sasha Cohen will perform in figure skating tours and charity events in the coming months.
A year ago, Cohen was struggling to regain competitive form in time for the U.S. National Championships. The 2006 Olympic silver medalist ultimately missed making the 2010 U.S. team, an experience she calls "bittersweet," saying the support she received from an audience that had clearly missed her panache made the effort worthwhile.

"I regret sometimes the hand of cards I was dealt, the injuries and equipment problems, but I did the best that I could each day under the circumstances," she said.

Any skater who spins as precisely and divinely as Cohen has to have a good internal gyroscope, and that should serve her well in retirement -- a term to use advisedly, since if Cohen has her way, she'll continue to skate far more as a pure entertainer than she did as an elite athlete.

Cohen spent three full years away from competition after the 2006 Games performing in shows, and she's back at it again. The "Stars On Ice'' veteran will rejoin that troupe for rehearsals soon in preparation for the tour that starts in November. She is slated to appear in Scott Hamilton's cancer benefit in Cleveland that same month, and has already made the first of two trips to Asia for other shows. Still, those opportunities have become scarcer in recent years, and Cohen sometimes wonders if she'll be able to make a decades-long career of performing as past stars of figure skating have.

"I'm still thinking of ways to be a part of skating and revive skating," said Cohen. She considered attending college this year, but opted for lights, cameras and action instead. "The ratings and shows have fallen off a bit. I started at the end of the heyday [in the late '90s]. Shows were sold out. You couldn't buy tickets. I would love for skating to get back to those days again."

Cohen, who is still based in Southern California and continues to work with longtime coach John Nicks, among others, has dabbled in acting and wants to do more. Her ever-shifting, eclectic musical taste has her in love with Ray Charles on one day, swooning over Johnny Cash on another, and bonding with the men's a capella ensemble Straight No Chaser after a recent performance with the group.

For this season, she choreographed her own moves to "Mein Herr" from the soundtrack of the movie "Cabaret." The sultry, sassy song requires her to vamp -- and she had to learn to jump while wearing a hat, a move that's apparently harder than it looks.

Meanwhile, Cohen is keeping her mind in shape by listening to taped lectures. "I joke to people that I'm going to give myself my own degree at the end, from my own school," she said.