Polina Edmunds was strapping skates to her feet and hitting the ice rink.
With such an accelerated timeline to her credit, it should come as no surprise that the San Jose native qualified for next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi at the ripe age of 15. The sophomore at Archbishop Mitty High School will compete next month in the most pre-eminent sporting event in the world.
“I’ve been taking skating lessons since I was 4 years old,” said Edmunds, who took home the silver medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston earlier this month, paving her path to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. “So, even though I’m very young, I came into the qualifying process with a strong belief that I could make the Olympics.”
Edmunds, whose mother is a native of Russia, said she took inspiration from Tara Lipinski, another precocious figure skater who qualified for the Winter Olympics at age 15. While Lipinski took home the gold at the 1998 competition in Nagano, Japan, Edmunds said her main goal is to complete two clean programs at this year’s games.
“What really inspired me about Tara was the joy she showed after each of her performances,” said Edmunds, who wasn’t even born when Lipinski triumphed in February of 1998. “She was dancing around the ice, and it wasn’t because she knew she won. You could see how much she was enjoying just being out there, and that’s what I want to do.”
Although Edmunds finished second in nationals — amazingly, her first senior event competition — she still had to sweat out the official selection process for the Olympics by U.S. Figure Skating, the sport’s governing body. Edmunds said that when she found out that she qualified — along with Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner, who made the team despite finishing fourth at nationals — the announcement didn’t sink in at first.
“I was so excited and so relieved to know that all my hard work had paid off,” Edmunds said. “It’s still a little hard for me to believe that I’m going to be competing in the same rink as so many of these skaters that I’ve grown up watching on television.”
Edmunds said the games being in Russia, where Edmunds’ family hails from, makes the event all the more special.
“I haven’t been to Russia since I was 2 years old and my mother hasn’t been there in 10 years,” Edmunds said. “It’s amazing to be able to go through this experience, and at the same time, share being back in Russia with my family.”
And even though she’ll be travelling halfway across the world for the Olympics, Edmunds said her teachers have all been pretty understanding about her impending absence.
“I know how important it is to get a good education, so I spend plenty of time studying for school,” Edmunds said. “I get good grades, even when I’m practicing a lot, so I think that keeps my teachers very supportive of what I’m doing.”
WHEN: Feb. 7-23
WHERE: Sochi, Russia
TV: Various NBC networks
EDMUNDS’ SCHEDULE: Ladies’ short program, Feb. 19; ladies’ free skate, Feb. 20