On the Edge with Smucker's Stars On Ice
Sasha Cohen – A glimpse into the life of an Olympian
Many fans of ice skating might be surprised to know that 24-year-old Olympic Silver medalist Sasha Cohen did not begin skating until the age of 7. She began her impressive athletic career in gymnastics two years before taking to the ice. Sasha believes that gymnastics gave her “great body awareness and strength.” That strength helped prepare her for the world of competitive ice skating.
With a mother who is a former ballerina, Sasha, 24, is a natural performer. Sasha is of Ukranian descent, and although English was the language spoken in her home, she understands about “ninety percent of Russian” thanks to two years of it in school and working with a Russian trainer.
As a headliner for the Smucker’s Stars on Ice “On the Edge” show, Sasha spends many hours on the road away from her family. With upcoming shows scheduled in Canada, Japan and throughout the Unites States, she is still able to keep in touch with her mom and sister over the long distances. Luckily for her, most of her friends are on tour with her, which gives them all a chance to eat, go out and spend time together. Currently, Sasha is getting in shape for competition and trains for two and a half hours each day. When she’s not on the ice, she practices Pilates, weight training and runs to stay in top physical condition.
Sasha believes that “you have to be happy and try to respect and love your body.” She encourages young girls and women to “take the time to exercise, stretch and do a sport.”
It is well known that Sasha is one of the few skaters who has a hand in designing her trademark solo skating costumes. With a lifelong interest in fashion, she indulges that talent by working with dressmakers on the sketches and even choosing the amazing colors and beading that goes into each creation.
As a supporter of many wonderful causes, such as the fight against pediatric and breast cancers, Sasha is helping to raise awareness using her star power to shine light on these important issues. Last year, she worked with P.S. ARTS in Los Angeles, an organization that helps to bring back arts education including music, theater, dance and visual art to the schools, so kids can develop creativity.
Sasha says, “There are so many good causes; it is hard to choose just one.”
Even as an Olympian, model and actress Sasha is able to keep herself grounded and positive because she believes that if you “focus on weakness, it makes it bigger and undermines [you]. Don’t accept defeat; focus on the positive.”
The Family Business of Competitive Ice Skating
Japanese-born Yuka Sato was introduced to the familiar world of iceskating at the tender age of 3. Both of her parents were well-known Olympians, skating champions and coaches. They both sacrificed their time to focus on Yuka’s skating.
As a child skater, Yuka never thought about limits. “When you are a child and dreaming big, anything is possible in your mind … I thought I would be a champion.”
Yuka says that parents of child skaters must be supportive. “It’s not a microwave-three-minute-sport. Don’t expect instant results and be patient. Keep loving what you do.”
With years of skating under her belt and a World Champion title in her long list of achievements, Yuka, 35, also stresses the need to have a good education.
“It’s so important,” she says. “Never give up.”
Being on the tour bus for hours on end doesn’t get Yuka down even in her seventh season of the Smucker’s Stars on Ice show.
“I love it! Our group is amazing. Everyone gets along and is working towards the same goal of having a great show. All the skaters support each other.”
She has learned to stay in shape while on the road and believes that nothing keeps her fit better than skating. She tries to skate at least 20 to 30 minutes every day, and when she can’t get to the ice, she takes to the gym hitting the elliptical trainer to keep up her cardio routine.
When not skating in a show or training students, she is a commentator for Japanese television. Married to Jason Dungjen, also a professional skater, Yuka loves to work with skaters of all ages. “I have a wonderful career,” she says.
Autumn Johnson is a freelance writer and mom of two young children. They live in Valley Center.
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