Newcomer Polina Edmunds the Present and Future of US Olympic Figure Skating

Lindsay GibbsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2014

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 11:  Polina Edmunds takes a curtain call after the ladies competition at the Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on January 11, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

You've probably never heard of her—not many people have—but Polina Edmunds is about to become a household name. 

The 15-year-old stunned the skating world last weekend at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, where she took the silver medal and was named to the Olympic team in her very first senior-level competition.

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 11:  Polina Edmunds, with her coaches David Glynn and Nina Edmunds, celebrates in the kiss and cry after skating in the ladies free skate during the Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on January 11, 2014 in Bost
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Prior to nationals, Edmunds only had competitive experience in the juniors. While she has been successful in those national and international competitions, success at that level rarely, if ever, translates so quickly to the seniors.

But that didn't phase her one bit. Though she wasn't used to skating on skates so high or in front of crowds so large, Edmunds soared as veterans around her faltered, and now the lithe sophomore in high school is headed to Sochi, for what will be her very first international senior-level competition. What a welcome to the big leagues!

The Californian should feel right at home in Sochi, given that her mother is Russian and she can understand the language, even if she doesn't speak it fluently. She'll also have a lot of big-time support throughout the Games, including three-time Summer Olympian Kerri Walsh-Jennings, who is an alumni of Edmunds' high school.  

Though she's so young, it's still been a long road to get to this point. Edmunds began skating when she was only two years old, thanks to encouragement by her mother and part-time coach, Nina Edmunds. She took to the sport immediately, and, by the age of four, had already enlisted David Glynn as her coach. Though she didn't always want to, she put in the long hours, waking up at 5:00 a.m. for practices, missing birthday parties and going to bed early when all her friends were hanging out.

But the hard work began to pay off quickly. Edmunds won the 2013 U.S. national junior title, and went on to have success on the international junior Grand Prix circuit. After meeting the age requirement for Sochi by six weeks, she decided to make the jump to the seniors.

She came into nationals not just happy to be there, but rather confident that she could make the Olympic team. In fact, her program was the most technically difficult in the competition, with eight triple jumps, including two separate triple-triple combinations. This helped her score high in the free skate, despite the fact that she fell once.

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 11: Polina Edmunds competes in the free skate program during the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on January 11, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Her confidence doesn't just shine through in her skating—she can talk the talk as well. "I move like a ballerina," she told the San Jose Mercury News. "I'm a very soft skater. But I tend to combine it with speed and power."

That combination of skills and self-confidence caught the attention of legends in the skating world. Frank Carroll, the famous figure-skating coach who has worked with Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek and now Gracie Gold, sees such promise in Edmunds that he works with her about once a month. He has no problem calling her the "future" of figure skating in America. It turns out the future is now.

Although she was completely off the radar headed into the U.S. Championships in Boston, Edmunds is now the youngest American winter Olympian since her idol Tara Lipinski, and poised to be a leader on Team USA for years to come.

Back in 2010, Jere Longman of The New York Times wrote a profile on 11-year-old Edmunds. Asked what her goals were at the time, she boldly stated, "My biggest dream would be to go to the Olympics and win.” 

Just four years later, she's already halfway there. In Sochi and beyond, we'll get a chance to see if she can make the rest of her dream come true.