Faster, higher, stronger -- Sasha Cohen is embracing the Olympic motto with open arms.
"I'm not coming back to be as good as the old me; I'm coming back to push myself in ways I haven't before," the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, who is returning to competition after three seasons away, told a media assembly in Chicago over the weekend.
"I've realized that skating is my purpose in life for the moment. I miss that drive and intensity, that meaning to my day, the good times, the bad times, just the challenge. I realize I have 50 more years of my life to do other things, and I wasn't ready to start that just yet."
Cohen, who turns 25 on October 26, is re-embracing the training grind, challenging herself technically and pushing her skating -- and her body -- into new directions.
"[I'm] opening my eyes to the changes in the new [judging] system and the type of skating that's out there and challenging myself to do more difficult programs, faster stronger programs.
"I'm working with a new coach, Rafael Arutunian, in Lake Arrowhead [Calif.], and I've been working a lot on different technical things, jumps and certain specific technical exercises jumping-wise . . . right now, it's just the brunt of all the work and good days and not-so-good days, but I've been progressing every month, and I'm very excited for the coming season."
Cohen readily admits competing with the likes of the last two world champions, Yu-Na Kim and Mao Asada, both still teenagers, is a tall order. Known for her charisma and spectacular spirals, the Californian usually didn't include triple-triple jump combinations in her programs. (She completed a triple toe loop-triple Salchow in her 2006 Olympic free skate.)
Since she won bronze at the 2006 world championships, her most recent competition, the International Judging System (IJS) has grown tougher. Technical specialists mercilessly scrutinize jump take-offs and rotations. Even the strongest athletes, like former world champions Miki Ando and Brian Joubert, have lost points on jumps that used to pass muster.