2006 Winter Olympic Games

Sasha Cohen Waves to the Crowd
(Yuri Kadobnov - AFP/Getty Images)
Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 23, 2006; 11:00 AM

Sasha Cohen is saving the drama for the women's final. A day after making the unusual decision to skip both of her practices, the U.S. champion spoiled a budding soap opera when she showed up for her final warm-up at the Palavela on Thursday morning. (Read More.)

Full Coverage: Turin 2006

Washington Post staff writer Amy Shipley was online Thursday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. ET from Turin, Italy, to field your questions and comments about the events and athletes that comprise the Winter Olympic Games.

Turin Handbook:

Who's There? Twenty-five hundred athletes, 650 referees and judges, 2,500 coaches and team officials, and 2,300 representatives from the International Olympic Committee, the various national Olympic committees and the sports federations. All of those people still won't outnumber the media members, all 10,000 of them. An additional 6,000 are guests of the various Olympic sponsors. One million spectators are expected, although ticket sales have been sluggish.

A day-by-day guide to the 2006 Winter Games

Photos: Winter Olympics: History

Tales From Turin:

An Olympic Journal by Dan Steinberg

The transcript follows.


Warrenton, Va.: Did Sasha Cohen deliberately bump Michelle Kwan in practice back in 2002?

Thank you.

Amy Shipley: Hello from Turin!

I wasn't at that practice in 2002 so I certainly don't have first-hand knowledge, but I always thought it was most likely not deliberate, and I always was puzzled at the legs that story--the assumptions surrounding it were questionable at best--had. Sasha, like any other elite athlete at that level, can be extremely self-absorbed and focused. I suspect she just wasn't paying attention to anyone but herself when she and Kwan bumped. To draw a more sinister conclusion when Kwan herself wasn't even offended by it was, I would say, a bit of a reach. I think the incident was incredibly and unfairly damaging to Cohen, and I think it's only recently that she's truly been able to move on from it. She was labeled some sort of Kwan enemy/mean-spirited rival when she was nothing of the sort.


Sasha, Sasha, Sasha: Do you think the way that Sasha Cohen's short program performance was hyped is indicative of the overzealous American media/fans?

Obviously, it was a great program. BUT, she's only up by .03 points and there's a whole 'nother program to go.

It's like people think she has the gold in hand and can start celebrating. A bad performance and she could easily wind up in 2nd or 3rd - let alone not even medal.

I hope she wins it all, but it's not anywhere close to party time.......

Amy Shipley: I think the program was hyped because she simply stole the show. It was a classic performance at the end of a brilliant night of skating and it nearly brought down the house here--even though she skated right after Italian star Carolina Kostner took the wind out of everyone's sails by falling. Having said that, Cohen has a MAJOR challenge tonight, because Irina Slutskaya is such an awesome jumper. If Slutskaya lands a couple of triple-triple jump combinations, which Cohen doesn't even plan to try, she could accumulate a pile of points that will be tough for Cohen to top. So I certainly agree that Cohen has nothing in the bag, and might even be a slight underdog, but I don't think her performance was overhyped at all. Considering how many U.S. athletes we have seen here collapse under pressure, Sasha's effort was monumental.


Washington, D.C.: You many have answered this already, but over the past few weeks, I've seen the area's name spelled/pronounced several ways, (i.e., "Turin", "Turino", "Torino," etc.) Which one is correct?

Amy Shipley: It's Torino to the locals, Turin to Americans and Turino to poor spellers.


Capitol hill, Washington, D.C.: Amy,

When are your reporters going to do their job and ask the burning question to Sasha Cohen???

Q: Is she aware of the Flying Tomato (aka Shaun White) and his profession of a "crush" on her? And if so, is she receptive to any sort of courtship??

Please get to the bottom of this asap!!! (Will he pull an Alberto Tomba/Katerina Witt and bring the young ice princess flowers after her skate?) Inquiring minds wanna know!!!

Amy Shipley: This question made me laugh.

She was asked about the amorous interest of The Flying Tomato and she noted that she did, indeed, like gold medals very much. She said she hoped to meet him at the Closing Ceremonies. It sounded a bit, just a bit, as if she were just being polite....


Sims, N.C.: How did the US curling team make out?

Amy Shipley: The women, who hoped to medal here, did poorly and are out of medal contention. The U.S. men compete in the bronze-medal game Friday.


Washington, DC: Hi Amy,

Was wondering, who is/are the consensus choice(s) of the sports press there as the most arrogant/obnoxious/ annoying US athlete(s)?

My short list would include: -Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis, with a slight edge to Chad, he of the winning-is-everything outlook and the outsize ego, who predictably turns childishly brittle when he doesn't win. Shani obviously has his own issues and displays of churlishness (cf. to Andrea Joyce after winning his gold).

-The preening Apolo Anton Ohno. (To start with, insisting on being referred to by your first, middle, and last names in common usage is of course a dead giveaway for pomposity and pretentiousness.) He turns every reporters' question about a race into an epic of his heroic struggle to overcome the adversity of previous races to achieve whatever finish he achieved, and of doing so despite the fact that the other racers, rather than simply trying to win the race for themselves, were focusing primarily on HIM and ways to skate in concert do do him in.

(I realize that Bode Miller might make some peoples' short lists, but I think he's less explicitly arrogant and abrasive than the above.)

So Amy Amy make the call . . . who's the most annoying of them all ??

Amy Shipley: This question amused me so much I had to answer, though I have to tread diplomatically. I am glad, though, that you did not feel similarly compelled!

I largely agree with you about the Chad and Shani shenanigans, which simply make the entire nation look bad. Is this the sort of sportsmen we breed? Good grief. It's worse than high school cafeteria behavior...I am eager to see what Chad does in Friday's 10,000--and how he handles himself after. He should win a medal, probably gold.

I respectfully disagree about Apolo Ohno, though he does seem to make every race a dramatic one. At least he's a nice guy who smiles on medal podiums--even when he lands on only the third step. I thought he handled that 1,000 meter bronze with a ton of class. He should, frankly, have been disappointed, but I respect the fact that he commended the opposition and appreciated the fact he got a medal of any color.

I can't speak about Bode because I would probably get fired if I did :-)


Washington, D.C.: Do you ever get 'spin' over there from supporters, agents, or handlers of agents? Are Bode's 'people' trying to spin a story one way, or Shani's agents pushing for certain stories.

Amy Shipley: No. I think all of their spin masters are in hiding, probably horrified.


York - Alexandria, Va.: While listening to sports talk radio, 980 am, an American reporter, reporting from Italy, had a very interesting story. He apparently grabbed a cab with three American speedskating officials. He preceded to ask about the on-going feud between chad/shani.One official stated that it was their fault. They apparently submitted shani's name without his approval. They went on to say that he never intended to be part of the relay. In short, shani is in the clear. The question is why didn't the officials come forward to clear this up from day one. Do you have any knowledge of this story?

Amy Shipley: I suspect the U.S. officials were trying to be diplomatic--just a guess--trying not to stoke the fire any more. I can't imagine they ask ANY athlete for permission to compete in the relay. I suspect it is assumed that everyone would want to be a part. While it is up to Shani whether he or not he wants to compete, I don't think he handled the situation very well. I think he could have far more graciously declined, or begged out of, the spot.


Evanston, Ill.: Amy,

Thanks for doing this! Does Kimmie M. have a triple-triple combination? Anyone else?

Amy Shipley: Hello!

Kimmie Meissner's planning on doing two triple triples. A bunch of people--even some of those way down in the standings--have indicated on their planned program content that they intend to try triple triples.

Irina has indicated--perhaps surprisingly--that she will NOT try one, which is odd, because that could be a big weapon for her if Cohen skates flawlessly. Of course, she goes last, so perhaps she will add one if she thinks she needs it.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Although I hope Sasha skates well tonight, it seems to me that the only way she can win gold is if she skates flawlessly and Irina makes some mistakes. Irina has many more difficult jumps in her long program, which would make the difference if they both skate well.

Wonder if the Tomato will show up to watch Sasha's long program tonight? I'll bet the cameras will be scanning the arena looking for him. Ah romance! (even if it may be one-sided).

Amy Shipley: Hello Pittsburgh.

That's where I was born (I grew up in the South Hills area).

Anyway, their programs--as written down on paper at this moment--look REMARKABLY similar. If I had more time, and I don't, I'd be curious to add up all of the base values. I don't think Irina's technical number will be that much higher than Cohen's, assuming these advance sheets are reliable.


Burlington, Vt.: Finals must be over. Can you tell me how Sasha did?

Amy Shipley: Sorry...haven't even started yet! Won't end until about 5:30 p.m. EST


Washington, D.C.: It seemed to me that at the Nagano Olympics in 1998, a big difference btw. Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski was that Tara really embraced the whole Olympic experience...she lived in the village, ate with the other athletes, got autographs, etc. Michelle didn't do that; she sequestered herself away, much like Cohen is doing now. What effect, if any, does it have on these athletes who don't seem to have any fun? Does anyone think it matters?

Amy Shipley: I agree about Nagano. Michelle took the whole thing way too seriously and it clearly hurt her. Tara, meantime, had a blast, and that could not have been more obvious, particularly in that amazing free skate (which knocked my socks off).

I think, though, that every athlete handles stress differently. It didn't, for example, help Kwan to live in the Olympic Village in 2002. She still had a breakdown at the end.

Cohen, for her part, seems to be enjoying the Games in her own way. Keep in mind, she and Meissner went up the mountain to train in seclusion at the start of the Games. Both seem to be nonetheless having a good time.


Arlington, Va.: Regarding the behavior of some U.S. athletes, I think our Olympians could take a few lessons from watching our Candian neighbors. I've had the chance to watch much of the CBC's LIVE daily coverage, and I think there have been 3 Canadian gold medalist that really stand out in my mind for humility and class. Specifically, I refer to Jennifer Heil, Chandra Crawford, and Cindy Klassen. Each of them produced a thrilling gold medal performance, yet they just stand out to me with their joy at winning but at the same time their humility stands out... Also, the Chandra Crawford story is to me one of the biggest of the Games, yet NBC did not even mention it in the prime time show - they saved it until the late night show.

Amy Shipley: I have nothing to add to this but thought it was worth publishing live!


Buffalo, N.Y.: If Sasha gets silver, who gets the bigger sponsor deals, Cohen, Belbin, or the the snow boarders who got gold?

Amy Shipley: Probably Michelle Kwan.



Washington, D.C.: Regarding figure skating costumes: I really preferred the Russian skater's unitard to Sascha Cohen's dress-thing (even though I loved the color). The unitard looks so much more graceful, and about as chic as these things can be.

Plus, no ugle "flesh-toned" pantyhose. Everybody wins!

Amy Shipley: That's interesting. I wasn't in love with the pant suit myself. Maybe she's onto something, though. Maybe a new style will blossom. As for the flesh-toned panty hose and flesh-toned shirt backs, at least we are not looking at as much skin as were during the ice dancing...


Washington, D.C.: A lot was made of Emily Hughe's short program performance, even though she only came in seventh. Does she have a realistic shot at a medal?

Amy Shipley: I don't think so. For Hughes to medal, the women would have to collapse in as massive proportions as the men collapsed in the long and that seems unlikely. Keep in mind there were only two or three falls in the entire short program (29 skaters, I think).

And it's not that the competition is fixed, by the way. The degree of difficulty in Hughes' program simply will not be as high as the top skaters, no matter how well she skates it.

I think it's more likely that she drops a spot or two than she medals, but, as she has pointed out so often, and as her sister showed us in 2002, this is the Olympics, and strange things happen....


Frostburg, Md.: Amy, Dan Steinberg's blog has been the most consistently captivating coverage of the Olympics; it should be required reading for all! (If there's such a thing as a Pulitzer for journalistic blogging, get him nominated!) My questions are: are his depictions the norm, and do you have your own set of Hunter S Thompson-esque episodes? And how much of it is a sort of "only in Italy" phenomenon? I can't imagine the same scenes in Salt Lake 2002 or Vancouver 2010. Have you covered other Olympics, and if so how do these games compare? And what are you foisting on your colleagues to combat/complement Dan's cheeses? Tales From Turin: An Olympic Journal by Dan Steinberg

Amy Shipley: I am posting this largely so our dear, exhausted pal Dan can see it. I am glad you have enjoyed his tales of Turin. I wish I could say we are all living life so fully here; sadly, most of us are doing more trudging between venues to cover stuff than actually seeing Italy and having grand times. I wouldn't say his experiences are an "only in Italy" phenomenon, though.... I think they are an "only Dan Steinberg" phenomenon. If I were a betting person I would fly him to Vegas with me. He just happened to bump into Roberto Donna, the Galileo chef, in a cheese shop, and got invited over his mother's house for dinner. Ridiculous! Stuff like that doesn't happen to the rest of us.


Fairfax, Va.: What are you hearing about Sasha's groin injury? The skating boards are talking about how she was wearing an ice pack after the short and speculating that's why she missed practice yesterday?

Amy Shipley: Well, she practiced today and apparently executed a handful of jumps without any perceptible pain. So I think she's fine.


Rockville, Md.: Re: New Figure Skating Scoring

What if falls could have a deduction of between 1-5 points, depending on the severity of the fall. It seems like it is not fair to have the same deduction for a fall in which the hand may touch vs. a fall in which the skater takes a major tumble. I'm thinking specifically of the fall the Chinese pair had in their long program and some of the falls in the ice dancing competition. It just seems like all falls aren't equal. What do you think?

Amy Shipley: Good point.

Except that they don't deduct a point for a fall just when a hand touches down. That would be affect the base value of the element.

For example:

If someone puts a hand down on a double axel, which, let's say is worth 6 points...

A judge might give it a grade of execution of -2, which would translate to a score of 4 points. Whereas if another skaters were to fall, she would get a grade of execution of -3, with an -1 to her overall score--which would mean a 3 for the element plus 1 point off whatever her final score is.

On that probably incomprehensible note, I have to run! Thanks for chatting!


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