Every four years during the Winter Olympics, millions of people become armchair experts on figure skating: quadruple jumps and combination spins, death spirals and triple Salchows.
And like clockwork, many rinks across the United States see a surge in enrollment for figure skating lessons inspired by Olympic fever. But the costs of seriously pursuing the sport put it out of reach for many families. Skates alone often cost $300, to say nothing of the ice time, coaching and costumes.
Yet each week in Harlem, Sharon Cohen helps more than 170 girls hit the ice and skate their way to new heights.
"The girls really fall in love with gliding, like I did, and realize that they're doing something very special," said Cohen, a former competitive skater who began teaching girls to skate in 1990.
"Before, there weren't a lot of girls (here) that could imagine themselves as figure skaters. ... But the thing about skating is it lets you imagine you can be anything."
Since 1997, Cohen's nonprofit, Figure Skating in Harlem, has provided skating equipment and instruction, tutoring and life skills classes to more than 700 girls from low-income communities.
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