SOCHI, Russia – Polina Edmunds was comforted by two adorable good luck charms as she made a dazzling entrance to the Winter Olympics on Wednesday, turning in a confident performance to take the lead early in the ladies' short program at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
The 15-year-old from San Jose, Calif., did not look nervous as she impressed with a score of 61.04 – a personal best – and landed each of her jumps, perhaps helped by the cuddly toys she had brought from home to calm her down.
"In my bag I have a lot of things, but most importantly I have two good luck toys – one of them is a little lion from my high school, Archbishop Mitty High School," Edmunds said. "They gave that to me for good luck. The other toy in my bag is a little elephant, which is from my skating rink's synchronized team. Their mascot is an elephant. They always say 'trunks up' for good luck."
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Her excited regaling of the story behind her furry animals is a reminder that despite her poise and maturity on the ice, this is still a young athlete with an incredibly bright future ahead of her.
The youthful spirit and energy in Edmunds' routine and her personality endeared her to the Russian crowd in what was her first senior international competition.
She seemed slightly disappointed with her score, despite it being enough to retain top spot until reigning Olympic champion Yuna Kim took the ice in the 17th position.
"I just tried to stay in the moment and remember ice is ice and to go out there and perform," Edmunds said, while admitting that a few untimely "bobbles" in her choreography may have shaved a few points from her final number. "It is a good score, I guess, because it is my first senior international, so just to be in the 60s was a great number for me. Of course I would like high numbers, but the only thing I can control is a clean program, which I did."
This was a fine opening to start her Olympic campaign, after missing out on the team competition when the more experienced Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner were selected for the ladies' spots.
Edmunds burst onto the scene at the U.S. Nationals in Boston, earning her trip to Sochi with a second-place finish, but has been largely overshadowed by Gold and Wagner, two of the media darlings of these Games.
However, Edmunds' performance, which began with a slick triple Lutz to triple toe loop combination, served warning of her potential, and it was clearly the standout program of the first two sessions of the evening.
The teenager also admitted she had been inspired by meeting her hockey hero Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks and United States national team, as she ate dinner before Wednesday's skate.
"It was definitely exciting to meet him," Edmunds said. "I met him a couple of hours before I competed when I was getting some dinner in the dining hall. He came over and said it was nice to meet me and wished me luck and said he would be cheering for me."
Click below for more images from the ladies' figure skating competition: