Polina Edmunds draws comparisons to skating idol Tara Lipinski

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As a 15-year-old figure skating phenom, Polina Edmunds inevitably demands comparisons to Tara Lipinski. That probably doesn’t bother Edmunds, either, as Lipinski provided her with plenty of inspiration to pursue her figure skating dreams all the way to Sochi.

“What really inspired me about Tara was the joy she showed after each of her performances,” Edmunds said.

It’s true that Edmunds has had her sight set on Sochi for yearsespecially considering her Russian roots – yet her rise remains remarkable. She managed to qualify for the Olympics by taking silver in January’s U.S. Championships, her first senior-level competition.

In doing so, she became the youngest American individual performer to qualify for the Olympics since Lipinski won gold in 1998. Fittingly, Edmunds was born months after that memorable moment.

It’s the kind of rare accomplishment that even leaves fellow figure skating competitor Ashley Wagner impressed.

“How many girls get to say their first senior international was the Olympics?” Wagner said to USA Today. “Not too many.”

Then again, as this earlier Olympic Talk profile discusses, maybe her leap shouldn’t be as surprising as her age and experience might suggest.

As much as she spoke about being surprised, Edmunds exuded confidence to the New York Daily News about her chances during the U.S. Championships (comments there were backed up with that second-place finish).

“I think my long [program] should, if I skate it clean, it should get a high score because I have the highest technical elements of all the ladies here,” Edmunds said. “I have two triple-triples in my program and two flips and two lutzes. I just need to go out there and skate it like I’ve been training.”

(She even attends the same San Jose high school that summer Olympic icons Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brandi Chastain graduated from, which prompted this spirited send-off.)

With marquee favorites Yuna Kim (South Korea) and Mao Asada (Japan) in mind, Edmunds remains an underdog heading into the 2014 Olympics. She might not always sound like one, though.

Meet Polina Edmunds, breakthrough Olympic figure skater.