Splash of Sasha

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

Sasha Cohen isn't afraid to mince words.

She won't hold back and say the women's field at the world figure skating championships -- March 20-26 at the Saddledome -- is going to be as strong without Olympic gold and bronze medallists, Shizuka Arakawa of Japan and Irina Slutskaya of Russia.

Frankly, she says, it won't be.

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"Definitely not," the Turin silver medallist said yesterday during a U.S. Figure Skating conference call.

"When you lose two of the medallists from the Olympics, you make two more spots on the podium for other people."

And that makes the 21-year-old U.S. champion from Laguna Niguel, Calif., the heavy favourite going into world championships.

But that mantle isn't adding any pressure on Cohen, who also mined silver at the 2004 and '05 worlds.

"Win or lose, whoever's there, it's about what I'm trying to accomplish when I'm out there," she said.

"It's about my skating and I'm feeling very prepared and very confident. It's always easier when the competition isn't all there. But

I would try to find the positives.

"To have a 'less than' field, I look at it as less pressure, to just enjoy the skating and it makes it easier, less tension."

Cohen had Olympic gold in her grasp after placing first in the short program in Turin. But she -- ahem -- fell to second behind Arakawa after crashing on her first triple Lutz attempt in the free skate.

Then Cohen touched her hands to the ice on the next triple Lutz attempt.

But she showed her indomitable spirit by not giving up -- landing five clean triples and showing how she reigns supreme in spins and spirals.

"To know the depth of how strong I am, stronger than sometimes I believe, and to be able to come back after a start (like that), it took a lot of courage," Cohen said. "It's nice ... to know you can persevere and come out on top and achieve something that seemed so impossible.

"I think it gives you a building block in your character."

Word came out after the Olympics she had been tending to 'nagging' and 'annoying' little injuries to her groin and back.

She took a nice long break after returning to the U.S., a time during which she became the belle of the Hollywood ball and was even the red-carpet correspondent for Inside Edition at the Academy Awards.

Then she got back into training, working out and physical therapy to help the bumps and bruises.

There was even a time when coach John Nicks considered keeping her out of worlds.

But she'll be here tomorrow night.

Cohen, who has hinted she may soon be retiring from competitive figure skating, won't let a world championship title define her career.

"Of course I want to win worlds," she said. "For me, a title or championship ... is a couple of days of your life. For me, it comes down to the performance and overcoming hard times.

"Definitely, I want a world championship. I think I'm capable and I've become a tough competitor.

I think it's very much in my reach."

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COHEN'S TAKE ON ...

WHY PEOPLE AREN'T WATCHING FIGURE SKATING:

"Generally, for whatever reason, skating is not as popular as basketball and football. There were times, I think, during Tonya (Harding) when it was pretty exciting and there were sold-out arenas. People were interested but, at this point in time, we are skating for -- aside from Olympics -- arenas that are half-full and that's always a little disappointing."

LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD:

"It's been so much fun ... I think I met pretty much all of Hollywood. It was a lot of fun but I have to say

I was very happy to get into my Nikes after being in six-inch heels for that week. The people who watched me and I had conversations with were special. Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston really wanted to talk to me about my skating. They appreciated my hard work and dedication and that was really nice to hear."

A FUTURE IN ACTING:

"(Ben Stiller's) making a figure skating movie and that would be a lot of fun. I've been offered cameos on different shows and I've had scripts come in the mail. We have to sort through what's real and what's a good idea but it's something I would love to pursue. My manager, Lee (Marshall), has been really busy."

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COHEN FINDS FAME ...

* Attended two pre-Oscar parties and was special correspondent for Inside Edition at the Academy Awards

* Attended the Elton John Academy Awards Dinner

* Has talked to Ben Stiller about appearing in his next project, a comedy about figure skating.

* Appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Regis and Kelly and Jimmy Kimmel.

* Book is being released March 28.

* Linked to gold-medal snowboarder Shaun White, whom she met at his Olympic victory party at LAX, a club in Hollywood, Feb. 28. Also known as the 'Flying Tomato' for his long red locks, White joked he wanted to be known as 'Golden Handsome Pants,' which Cohen called him that night.

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WHAT's NEXT?

* World championships in Calgary. Women's qualifying is Wednesday, 9:15 a.m., with the short program Friday at 10:30 a.m. and the free skate at noon March 25.


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