updated 02/09/2010 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 02/11/2010 AT 9:00 AM ET
Saddened that she didn’t qualify to compete at the Winter Games in Vancouver starting Friday night (on NBC), figure skater and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen foresees the U.S. team losing to its international competition.
In her own case, severe injuries to her calves ended Cohen’s hoped-for return to competitive figure skating at the Games.
“It’s definitely disappointing and also a little bit of a shock when it’s something you’ve trained for your whole life,” Cohen, 25, tells PEOPLE. About placing fourth in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and not qualifying for an Olympic spot, she says, “Of course I was hoping to make the team.”
Four years ago, Cohen left skating to try acting and enroll in college. She aimed a comeback to the ice last year, but lost to American teens Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, who will now represent the U.S. in Vancouver.
Too Young to Win?
And yet, the women comprise a youthful team that Cohen doesn’t think will be able to win medals. She predicts the gold will go to Korea’s Kim Yu-na, with the silver going to Joannie Rochette from Canada, and the bronze to Japan’s Miki Ando.
“The U.S. girls are young and haven’t competed as much internationally, so they’re kind of hit or miss,” Cohen says. “They’re good skaters, they’re just not at the same level as the international girls.”
For the men, she’s betting on Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko to place first, Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel second, and America’s Evan Lysacek third.
As for her own career – next up for Cohen is headlining the Smuckers Stars on Ice tour beginning April 1 – she is setting her sights on “what to do in the next phase of my life.”
If that will include the Olympics, so be it. “I overcame a lot of adversity,” she says. “It was really special to be back.”