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Sasha Cohen vs. Michelle Kwan

Updated on October 18, 2014

Sasha Cohen: a skater of extension

Sasha Cohen is a skater of incredible extension and flexibility.

Although Cohen was never a jumper, she was certainly a pioneer of extension, especially weighed in creative stretch.

In 6.0 system, Cohen's skating can be an advantage. The current COP doesn't focus particularly on spiral or spin, which makes it difficult to find a skater like Cohen.

But in a larger frame of figure skating, Cohen is a testament of what the current figure skating crucially lacks and Cohen's exploitation of extension is of great value even beyond competition.

Sasha Cohen in 2002

Sasha Cohen: a new kind of skater

It would be an understatement that Cohen isn't a skater of ideal shape.

Despite her handicap as a skater, Cohen is capable of producing incredible extension in various forms. She, through flexibility and agility, explores extra extensions and creative balance; figure skating is much more than just jumping.

If Kwan was an orthodox skater, Cohen was a new kind of skater whose merits are based on exploitation of extension.

The problem is however that Cohen's physiological shape renders her higher center of weight compared to other skaters. Consequently, Cohen largely struggled with jumps in competition.

It's an irony that a skater like Cohen whose physiological imbalance impedes her jumping ability became a pioneer skater of extensions.

Assuming that her program is similar to today's skaters

How do you grade Cohen's free?

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Sasha Cohen in 2006

Kimmie Meissner sitting in the audience

Though this is about Cohen's story, my eyes are always on Kimmie Meissner in the middle of the footage above.

I have a special affection for her, whose persona always reminds me of Janet Lynn.

How exceptional she really was as a skater may be only a matter of speculation, but I am sure of one thing; if Kimmie had been healthy enough and successfully managed to join the force of trio that includes Yuna Kim and Mao Asada, then U.S. ladies figure skating today would have been much different.

Kimmie is to me a heart-wrenching misfortune for U.S. figure skating as well as figure skating world.

Sasha Cohen in 2002

At the time, Cohen was a skater with fresh air to the sport. While she was competent enough to compete with other skaters, she flaunted what only she was capable of handling.

Sasha Cohen is a skater that shows what we are all miss in today's figure skating. Jump may never be discounted in figure skating, but in terms of balance of all elements that are composed of the sport, spiral and spin are critical elements.

We are not looking for excellence in height or even speed by itself. Each factor that provides and determines the excellence of figure skating cannot exist for its own merit. Each quantifiable excellence has to be converted into aesthetic form of lines and extensions.

In other words, every motion in figure skating is fundamentally continuous, tangential, and unimpeded to be valid.

Spiral is also connected to edge control. So ISU's ditching spiral from the program, whether it's premeditated to design a sport fraud or not, became poison to the sport and athletes alike.

Assuming her program is similar to today's skaters'

How do you grade Cohen's short?

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Michelle Kwan in 2002

I think Kwan's 2002 national performances could have been more convincing to the Olympic judges.

It's incredible for this Kwan to balk at the Olympics.

Assuming it was done like today's standards

How do you grade Kwan's program above?

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Michelle Kwan in 2002

Kwan: a master spiral spinner

In those days, spiral was an important element, rightfully so.

Kwan's agility in spiral is quite understandable. Kwan's height may be an advantage for her to perform excellent spirals, but Kwan's edge control may have more to do with her extraordinary control of spiral.

But accurately speaking, Kwan is not physiologically an ideal skater. Kwan grew stocky compared to younger time.

Ho do you grade Kwan's free?

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Who do you think has actually won?

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Sasha Cohen's interview


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