Thursday, February 23, 2006

Not To Be

I actually made a concerted effort not to hear the results of Thursday's female figure skating until I watched it unfold. I have the quirky notion that a sporting event might be more enjoyable if I don't know the outcome heading in. I know, I know. I'm weird like that.

Unfortunately, it didn't work. I heard. So, yeah, I knew that Sasha Cohen fell, not once but twice, and on her first two jump attempts to boot.

But, man, was it still painful to watch. I had one eye closed and my head cocked sideways, and it didn't help. It isn't easy witnessing an athlete crack so undeniably on the biggest stage with the world watching, unless said athlete is somehow cocky or a Detroit Piston, in which case it would be enjoyable. Cohen's demise? Simply sad.

As Cohen headed onto the ice you could just see it in her eyes. All of her self doubt, all of her soft parts, were right there, exposed. Even had I not known what was about to happen, I might have guessed. The clouds were definitely forming and looking like rain. She looked like she was expecting the worst, which is usually a recipe to get just that. The most unfortunate part was that, once those opening spills were out of the way, Cohen skated beautifully, probably at least as well as gold medal winner Shizuka Arakawa of Japan, whose only clear advantage over Cohen was that she skated cleanly, which in this case, was everything. The mishaps happened so quick, only seconds into her routine, it was as if Cohen knew, somewhere in the back of her fragile psyche, that once the inevitable was out of the way, she could breathe free. It was as if she needed the mistakes to happen before she could accept the fact that she wasn't going to be perfect when she most needed to be perfect and then, and only then, could she do her thing. And she did.

But it was too late.

It's such a fine line between glory and infamy. Cohen had the gold medal right there within her grasp, not to mention the lifetime of accolades (and endorsements) that would have come along with it. Now, at the young age of only 21, she presumably heads into retirement from the ice with the memory of faltering at the most important moment forever etched into her brain. If you don't think she'll think about this forever more, you're crazy.

Life is rough sometimes.

At least Cohen carried herself with grace and humility even in defeat, which can't be said of all American athletes in these Olympics. Asked if her groin injury was a factor, she denied it as a convenient excuse. She just didn't get it done and she said so.

And hey, she's still hot, so she has that going for her, which is nice.

By the way, I wonder what got better ratings last night: Olympic figure skating or FOX's Skating with the Stars? I have my hunch and it has a lot to do with my disdain for anything involving the American public.


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