At 16, Polina Edmunds already knows that reputation matters in the judged sport of figure skating.
She expects to win a medal at the World Championships next week. She believes that those outside her camp are giving her a better chance now, too, after she won the Four Continents Championship over 2014 U.S. champion Gracie Gold and top Japanese skaters in February.
“Having the Four Continents title, I think, will help me a little bit as [far as] reputation,” Edmunds said Monday. “But really, it comes down to how I do. I think that skating two clean programs at Worlds is going to be in my best interests to really make a good impression on the judges. Having this [Four Continents] title could help me, I guess, in terms of they will already know what I’m capable of as I step onto the ice.”
In January, Edmunds said judges were being “a little more strict” with her given she was a newcomer to the senior stage in 2014. She made those comments in an opening statement on a media call, before any questions were asked.
She is part of a three-woman U.S. team heading to Worlds in Shanghai hoping to deny Russia the first women’s podium sweep since the U.S. in 1991 (Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan).
Edmunds beat zero Russians at her two Grand Prix Series events this season. When she won Four Continents in Seoul, no Russians were in the field. Five U.S. women won Four Continents before her, and none won medals at that season’s World Championships.
“Mostly, I just don’t want to be on the podium if I don’t skate well [at Worlds],” she said. “I hope that people who don’t skate well, I’m hoping they’re not going to be on the podium, either. It should be who skates the best. And it shouldn’t be so political with who has what titles going into this.”
Edmunds said she’s dealt with skating’s off-ice politics “for years,” since she was a junior. She said somebody once tried to tell her to change her costume and her music she had been using that season just before the U.S. Championships.
“They want a little piece of me, and see if I can change anything, and then they can take the credit for it,” she said. “Not in a bad way, all people try to give their input in. Maybe they don’t like this about my music, my costume.
“I know that if I skate well, all those little things don’t matter.”
Edmunds did just that in Seoul, landing seven triple jumps in her free skate. She lagged behind the last two U.S. champions, Ashley Wagner and Gold, all season up to that point, even finishing fourth at the U.S. Championships in January.
Now, she’s in the mix with Wagner and Gold to win the first U.S. women’s medal at a World Championships since 2006.
“Nobody’s training to come and be 10th,” Edmunds said. “If I skate well, I hope to be rewarded.”
Edmunds, who works with a ballet teacher weekly, finished ninth at the Sochi Olympics and eighth at last year’s World Championships.
“Last season was a whole different ballgame,” she said. “I was relatively unknown. … This season, everything’s different, of course. Now, I am known.”