Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sasha Cohen plots return to competition

After months of speculation, Sasha Cohen has an answer.

Yes, she will return to competition and bid to qualify for her third Olympic team.

"I've been thinking about it for a while," said the 24-year-old. "The whole magic of the Olympics is coming up. I want to challenge myself. I think I have enough inside of me.

"As the time to the Olympics came closer, I knew I had to decide, figure out which Grand Prix [competitions] I wanted to do, get a master plan. I'm actually making a more official announcement next week."

Cohen, who watched the recent world championships in Los Angeles, said she was impressed but not intimidated by the performances of skaters like world champion Yu-Na Kim; silver medalist Joannie Rochette; and bronze medalist Miki Ando, as well as 2008 world champion Mao Asada, who failed to win a medal despite landing a triple Axel-double toe combination in her free skate.

"We watched a little bit of worlds... we lost the satellite a couple of times. It was a lot of fun seeing Evan [Lysacek] win," she said.

"Yes, there are a lot of great skaters right now, but this is more of a personal thing for me. I miss the challenge and I miss that part of my life."

Asked if she thought she could cope with the ever-growing challenges of the International Judging System (IJS), with its precise requirements for high-level spins, footwork and spirals -- not to mention the triple-triple combinations of younger athletes like Kim and Asada -- Cohen replied, "Definitely, yeah. I've spent time training this winter and spring and I've already improved a lot."

Full article.

Duhamel and Buntin Close to the Top

Meagan Duhamel, 23, and Craig Buntin, 28, have risen close to the top in pairs in their two years together.

The couple won the bronze medal at Canadians in 2008 and improved to silver in 2009, actually winning the short program over 2008 world bronze medalists Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison.

Duhamel and Buntin were sixth at Worlds in 2008 and eighth in 2009. The couple placed fourth at this year's Four Continents Championships in Vancouver.

They also won a bronze medal at Trophée Eric Bompard in 2008.

"The season has gone well for us," Buntin said. "We're in the same league with the top pairs in the world and in striking distance of the podium."

"If we skate our best, we have a shot," Duhamel added. "If we see someone skating well, we want to skate better."

"Our biggest asset is our passion and our drive and desire," underlined Buntin. "I think that comes out in our skating. We're a young team and we're developing fast."

"We want to be on the podium in Vancouver," the 28-year-old continued. "That's my home town. If we haven't peaked as a team, we'll probably continue after that. We definitely want to make the Worlds podium. After we finish, tours and shows would be fun."

Duhamel had to give up a promising career in ladies to focus on pairs. "I miss training, but not competing in singles," she said. "I couldn't do in competition what I could do in practice. I haven't lost any of my jumps. I still do them all for fun."

The couple teamed up in June 2007 after Buntin's former partner Valerie Marcoux retired. "We've rearranged our lives to make the partnership work," Duhamel said. "We're both competitive people. We have a vision of where we want to go and what we have to do to get there."

Full article.

Mroz Stays an Even Course

In an unusual coincidence, U.S. skater Brandon Mroz seems to almost always finish with an even numbered placement in major competitions. He has finished second four straight times at U.S. Nationals: novice in 2006, juniors in 2007 and 2008, and seniors in 2009.

"People say it's a curse, but at least I'm consistent," he said. "I knew a medal was possible this year, but silver was a shock. To get silver my first year in seniors is a great starting point. I'm young and I'm only going to get better. It's in me to get to the top."

Mroz was second twice at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final (2007 and 2008) and fourth twice at Junior Worlds in the same seasons. "That definitely helped me by putting me in situations where there was a lot of pressure," he said. "It made me a better athlete and helped define my character."

This year, Mroz competed for the first time at an ISU senior international, the 2009 Four Continents Championships. And again his finish was an even number – eighth.

Only at the 2009 World Championships did Mroz finish in an odd-numbered place, ninth, after placing eighth in the short.

"Nerves were blocking me a bit," he said, "but I just tried to push through and do the best I could. I learned what's in me and what I could do. Everybody gets better from knowledge, and I can take it and apply it to next season in the Olympic year."

Mroz has continued to set personal bests this year, both nationally and internationally. He set new marks for his short program and overall score at Skate Canada, then improved those scores again at Four Continents and Worlds with 76.10 points in the short and 207.19 points overall.

Full article.

Famous in a Second

Sometimes it just takes a second to become famous, and this is exactly what happened to Russian ice dancers Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer at the 2009 European Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki.

During the Compulsory Dance, the strap on Rubleva's costume was torn and she desperately tried to hold it with one hand during the dance to cover her exposed breast. The 23-year-old was close to tears as she came off the ice.

The costume malfunction was captured by a photographer, and on the next day, the pretty skater's photograph was in newspapers and other media worldwide.

Although Rubleva was clearly upset and embarrassed at the time, she can now laugh about the incident.

"I'm a star now," she joked. "It was a good publicity move. Why should I be upset now? It would be useless. What happened, happened. I try to take it with humor."

"The photographers, of course, caught the right moment," her grinning partner added.

After the infamous incident, Rubleva, who already did some modeling work for calendars and clothing, soon got more offers.

Rubleva and Shefer, who have been skating together for 15 years now, began competing internationally in 2001.

Figure skating seems a logical choice for Rubleva, as her parents Svetlana Bakina and Boris Rublev used to compete in ice dance as well. However, her parents didn't push her to become a skater.

Full article.