Skater Polina Edmunds has revised goals as U.S. championships arrive

 Skater Polina Edmunds has revised goals as U.S. championships arrive
Polina Edmunds performs during the women's singles free skating at the NHK Trophy ISU Grand Prix figure skating 2014 in Osaka on Nov. 29. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP/Getty Images)

Polina Edmunds had no time to grow into becoming both the future and present of U.S. women's figure skating, since that all happened all in one fell swoop.

Then she had to deal with growing out of the body that carried her to the top so fast.


It is no wonder that the physical changes that befall teenage girls have sent Edmunds tumbling during the first part of her first full season as a senior competitor.

"Puberty is upon me," said Edmunds, who turned 16 last May. "I have to adjust my balance, coordination, center, weight, everything as I go from a girl to a woman."

She has company: Russia's Yulia Lipnitskaya, darling of the 2014 Olympics and runner-up at the world championships, has fallen victim to the same problems since turning 16 in June. Lipnitskaya finished ninth at the Russian championships last month.

Having fallen four times in six programs at three international competitions this season, Edmunds has downsized slightly the goals she expressed in an interview last summer: making the senior Grand Prix final, winning the U.S. championships and being a medal contender at the world championships.

"I'm still very confident with hopefully doing well at nationals and being a contender at worlds," Edmunds said. "I'm confident when I skate well that I will be a strong contender for everyone."

She goes into the U.S. championships women's competition beginning Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., looking for the top-three finish that should earn her a spot at the late March world meet in Shanghai.

"It's just a step-by-step process for me," she insisted.

But Edmunds, a high school junior from San Jose, skipped a few steps last season.

She went from talented junior-level skater to the 2014 Olympics by finishing a strong second at nationals, her first senior competition. Edmunds wound up ninth at the Sochi Winter Games and eighth at worlds.

Edmunds "is the future of U.S. women's skating," venerable coach Frank Carroll said at the 2014 nationals.

"I don't think the expectations were more than I could handle," she said.

The big issue is that the jumps that helped propel Edmunds to the elite of U.S. women's skating so quickly have become less consistent as she tries to do them with a changing morphology.

Falls on jumps in the short program at both her Grand Prix events last fall made her struggle for fourth- and eighth-place finishes. That left her 10 places from a spot in the six-skater final.

"Of course I was disappointed," she said. "I have nerves. [But] I didn't make any more mistakes than any of the other girls at the Grand Prixs. I am a newcomer, so the judges are going to be a little more strict with me."


Edmunds nevertheless was dismayed at having several jumps dinged for wrong-edge takeoffs, as if judges began to find ways to give her deductions for being an ingénue who isn't Russian — even though her mother is a Russian emigre who once coached skating there, and Edmunds speaks Russian.

Edmunds had no such issues on the same jumps at last year's Olympics or worlds. Few skaters suddenly begin using the wrong edge for takeoffs on jumps previously judged not to have those problems.

"[Judging] shouldn't be about countries or specific skaters or how long you have been skating, but how you do that day," she said. "I know my jumps are good and clean."

As Yuna Kim supporters would say about the controversial judging that made Russia's Adelina Sotnikova the 2014 Olympic champion in her motherland: Good luck with that.