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Posted: Wednesday May 6, 2009 9:03PM; Updated: Wednesday May 6, 2009 9:23PM

Cohen confirms comeback plans

Story Highlights

Sasha Cohen's decision to return is a big boost for U.S. figure skating

Cohen hopes to represent the U.S. at next year's Vancouver Games

Now 24, Cohen has kept herself in shape touring with "Stars on Ice"

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Sasha Cohen has not skated competitively since the 2006 world championships.
Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

NEW YORK (AP) -- Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen is planning a comeback for the Vancouver Games.

Cohen confirmed on Wednesday she will return to competitive figure skating in hopes of earning a spot at next year's Vancouver Games. She has submitted paperwork to U.S. Figure Skating that would make her eligible for Grand Prix events this autumn.

"I've been excited," Cohen told The Associated Press by phone from Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she was touring with Stars on Ice. "Every day it's closer and real, so it's very exciting to me."

She plans a formal announcement next week in Los Angeles. David Raith, president of U.S. Figure Skating, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Although the 24-year-old Cohen hasn't competed since the 2006 world championships, where she won the bronze medal, her decision to return was a huge boost for U.S. figure skating and could help the Americans avoid an embarrassing showing in Vancouver.

U.S. women have dominated figure skating, winning seven Olympic gold medals, including three of the last five. They've claimed at least one medal at every Winter Games since 1952 except in 1964, which came three years after a plane crash killed the entire U.S. team.

But the Americans have struggled without Cohen and Michelle Kwan, who also hasn't skated since 2006. The U.S. women failed to win a medal at the world championships in March, the third straight year they've gone home empty-handed.

Worse, their performance at the worlds was good enough only to earn the Americans two spots in Vancouver. It's only the second time since 1924 the United States has failed to earn the maximum three spots. The other was in 1994.

Perhaps most troubling, the Americans are no longer a driving force in the Winter Olympics' glamour sport. The star power is now in Asia, where Kim Yu-na and Mao Asada have a captivating rivalry that is sure to carry into Vancouver.

Cohen, however, remains popular and was the main attraction for Stars on Ice.

Although she hasn't been competing, or even training full-time at a competitive level, touring has kept Cohen in shape. Asada and Miki Ando may have upped the technical ante with triple axels and quadruple jumps, but Cohen has enough technical skill to be competitive if she stays healthy. She was doing triple jumps with ease at a Stars show last month.

Besides, jumps were never what set Cohen apart. Tiny, beautiful and unbelievably flexible -- former coach John Nicks used to say it was impossible for her to get in an ugly position -- she can be breathtaking to watch. And, as Kim showed in winning the world title in a rout, beauty still trumps brawn.

Cohen has four more shows after Wednesday's "Stars" performance, and told the Chicago Tribune she'll take some time off afterward to let a foot injury heal. Then she plans to train at Lake Arrowhead, California with Rafael Arutunian, Kwan's old coach.

The first major event for her to enter will be Skate America from Nov. 13-15 at Lake Placid, New York.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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