When Sasha Cohen glides across the Pond at Bryant Park in Manhattan today, she will be displaying her strong suits — Olympic-caliber skater, philanthropic do-gooder, media darling and budding actress.
The silver medalist will lace up her skates for Weatherproof’s “Coat the Rink Skate-a-thon,” an all-day coat drive for the charity New York Cares. Just last month, the diminutive skater said she was bowing out of the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash. That decision only heightened speculation that Cohen was easing out of competitive skating and inching her way into Hollywood.
During a telephone interview last week, while she was driving to her home in Southern California after a few hours of skating, the 22-year-old said, “I know I want to be in the 2010 Olympics and I know I need this year to take a break. It takes a lot of commitment and intensity to train at that level.”
Cohen is not currently working with a coach, but she said she still skates two hours a day and does a lot of off-ice work — weights, yoga, running, hiking and swimming. Strenuous as that might sound, Cohen said it’s a snap compared with Olympic training. “That’s your life 9 to 5; there’s nothing else.”
These days, taking acting classes and going on auditions are occupying more and more of her time, but she manages to use her physical prowess. For her role in the forthcoming teen flick “Moondance Alexander,” Cohen had to learn how to ride horseback, English style. She has a cameo in the Ben Stiller-produced “Blades of Glory,” a spoof about the skating world starring Will Ferrell, due out this spring, and has appeared on “CSI: NY” and “Las Vegas.”
“I have really enjoyed the challenge and opportunity of taking acting classes and developing a different part of me as a performer. Acting involves timing, voice and relationships with other people instead of just physical movement,” she said. “It’s another ground. I’m trying to get a take on it. It should definitely help my skating.
“I really enjoy making things up in a new person. I like getting to find a character and make it real and not always having to be yourself,” she added. “It’s almost childlike in some ways.”
Cohen insisted she would compete again, but not since Sonja Henie, the Norwegian ice queen of the Twenties who hung up her Olympic skates for a lucrative career in Tinseltown, has there been a female Olympic skater so hell-bent on the Hollywood dream. Like Henie, whose furrier father hired a variety of specialists — including the Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina — to groom his daughter for celebrityhood, Cohen is astute enough to know that dressing the part off-ice is essential. (Cohen may have picked up tips about carriage from her mother, Galina Feldman, a former ballet dancer.) One of the perks of attending last year’s Oscars and Emmys was wearing dresses from Pamela Dennis and Marc Bouwer, respectively, Cohen said.
Widely recognized for her bedazzling skating attire, the raven-haired Cohen is at ease with the designer treatment. “Working with designers is definitely the fun part because I like fashion so much,” she said. “It goes hand in hand with what I do in skating. I design all my outfits for figure skating. I’ve never studied design, but it’s been a hobby for the last 10 years. I have always had a hand in making what I wear — choosing the colors, the fabrics and what it looks like.”
She is not courting any offers for a signature collection, but “anything is possible” and she would be drawn to an eveningwear line. “The beading and fabrics — that’s what makes it so fun to do.”
Cohen, 5 feet 2 inches and 95 pounds, said buying clothes that fit her can be tricky. “Definitely high shoes; I like Rene Caovilla, and Stuart Weitzman is great for casual everyday shoes,” she said. “I’m pretty much a teeny thing. It’s tough to find clothes. A double zero or a 24-waist in certain brands will work. But shoes aren’t much better. I wear a 4 1/2.”
Vince works for casual clothing, Paige is a denim favorite and Nanette Lapore is good for fun, feminine looks, she said. “There are so many out there, especially when you go to New York,” she said. “This trip, I have some business and the appearance, but I get to stay a couple of more days. Hopefully, I will fit in some time to go to the Meatpacking District and the West Village to shop.”
She may be diminutive, but Cohen did not shy away from commenting on the weight debate about runway models. As for Milan’s plans to issue licenses to healthy runway models, Cohen said, “It’s good because it will help a lot of young girls. They will know not to try to idolize that body image. They will know it is not the norm to be that skinny.”