Maggie Hendricks

Cohen brings drama to lackluster women's field

Maggie Hendricks
Fourth-Place Medal

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The United States is used to having a star in the ladies' figure skating field. After all, we are the country who produced Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Tonya vs. Nancy and Michelle Kwan.

Don't count on that this time around.

Though 2006 Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen has a shot at making the U.S. team, the rest of the field lacks serious international credentials. Reigning U.S. champion Alissa Czisny took 11th at the 2009 World Championships. Rachel Flatt and Ashley Wagner both have had shining moments internationally, but lack consistency.

With just two spots available for these women, there will be even less of an opportunity for the American women to medal in Vancouver.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't tune into the U.S. championships -- the competition that helps decide the spots on the team -- this weekend. There will still be plenty of drama, with Cohen at the center.

After winning a silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Cohen retired from figure skating. She spent time in college, dabbled in acting and even was a guest judge on "Project Runway." But that wasn't enough for her.

"It was great having fun for three years, but then it kind of seemed pointless. What am I waking up for?" Cohen said. "I have the next 50 years of my life to meander and figure things out. I want another year of intensity, I want to push myself to see what I'm capable of, set down the bottom line.

The biggest question of this weekend's competition is how will the layoff from skating affect Cohen? Her first public practice was strong, but will she able to wow us with her jumps and contortionist spins when the pressure is on? She has been known to crumble under pressure. At the 2006 Olympics, she was in the lead going into the free skate, but fell and lost her shot on the gold.

If Cohen gets one of the berths, the other one is up for grabs. All of the challengers are young and haven't skated in the Olympics. Czisny, the defending national champion, is the closest thing to a favorite, but Wagner and Flatt have the ability to be close on her heels, er, blades.

Stick with Fourth-Place Medal all weekend for coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

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