Meet Sasha Cohen: Columbia philosophy student, NYC Member, Olympic Silver Medalist in Figure Skating.
Despite being one of the United States’ most memorable skaters– she attended her first U.S. Championships at the ripe age of 16 – Sasha is down to earth, relaxed, and genuine, with a palpable passion for giving back to the community. She is a long-time supporter of Figure Skating in Harlem, a NYC-based organization that combines mentorship and figure skating to empower underserved girls.
IVY caught up with Sasha about the Olympics, giving back, and ways to get involved.
What’s the toughest thing you went through in the Olympics?
For a competition of such significance, you spend fifteen years of your life in preparation for this goal that is eventually either achieved or forever lost in just a few minutes. It’s incredibly difficult to handle such immense pressure and expectations – it challenges every part of you.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s the importance of perspective. When you look back on past experiences,you realize that you can handle a lot more than you think you can.
Are you really good at handling pressure now?
I think so, although it’s really about being habituated to pressure. I grew up with a great deal of pressure on me at a young age, so it became normal.
What’s interesting is that if you step out of the spotlight, you find that you get nervous all over again. I recently learned how nervous I get during public speaking!
What does no one know about you?
People don’t always know how shy or self-conscious I can be. I’m used to not showing weakness after spending a decade of my life in the public eye, but I’m more sensitive than most people would guess.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of school?
Lately, I’ve taken such an affinity to reading philosophy – I must be looking for the meaning of life!
How can IVY members support you?
I feel so fortunate to be in NYC, and to be able to constantly explore. The more we can be exposed to communities, the better. They shape the way future generations live. I love having opportunities to participate in more things like this, and find more communities of individuals who are like-minded. That’s what IVY is about: getting to know different kinds of people with passions, who broaden your perspectives.
If you could give a TED talk on anything, what would it be on, and why?
I actually gave a TED talk at Columbia on the power of commitment. I’m inspired by people who decide to dedicate their lives to something. I’m continually amazed to see how such overwhelming purpose changes and inspires you.
It would be great to speak about being present, and making sure one’s priorities are in order. It’s very hard to do in a world that increasingly values money and a certain type of success. I started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which shows how much we’ve lost touch with how to live—it’s great!
What’s your big life goal?
Topics relevant to social impact and social justice have become really important to me. People without a voice need their interests championed, otherwise their interest get lost in contemporary society.
How can IVY Members help support Figure Skating in Harlem?
I’ve been involved with FSIH for over 10 years and it’s been incredible to see the little ones I met during my first few years go off to top tier colleges on scholarships. What I love most about FSIH is the sense of character and identity that is instilled in these girls through the process of skating and learning how those same skills apply to all aspects of one’s life.
The best way to get involved and support the cause would be to volunteer, attend our Gala, or come skate with us at the annual skate session in Central Park and meet the girls!
Sasha Cohen is an Olympic Medalist, activist, and IVY NYC Member. Connect and collaborate with her here! To learn more about IVY, please visit www.ivy.com.