SOCHI, Russia The tactical decision was to keep Polina Edmunds in Austria to train rather than attend the Olympic opening ceremony. That didn't stop the 15-year-old figure skater from marching with Team USA.
In a hotel lobby in Austria, she watched the opening on TV with her Russian-born mother Nina, who is one of her coaches.
When the U.S. team came out to march, I walked in front of the TV and I pretended to march as well, the sophomore from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., said Saturday just a few hours after arriving in Sochi.
Edmunds said it was a group decision by her and her coaches not to attend the opening.
There are many people who say, 'Yeah you should do it. .... It's a once in a lifetime kind of thing,' she said. And there are others that say, 'Your sport is what you've been working on your entire life. ... You need to save yourself, save your legs, save your mind ... and focus on what you have to do.''
They opted for the latter.
Another 15-year-old, Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia, was in Sochi last week for the team competition. In that event, Lipnitskaia helped Russia win the gold medal. She also showed she will be a contender for individual gold when the women's competition begins next Wednesday.
Edmunds arrived here minus high profiles of her two U.S. teammates, 18-year-old Gracie Gold and 22-year-old Ashley Wagner. Gold and Wagner skated in the team event and helped the USA to bronze.
Though Edmunds placed second at nationals behind Gold, she was asked multiple times about being under the radar.
Her response: It just gives me more energy to myself and not all the excitement that's surrounding them right now. ... So I can't wait to go and prove myself on that big stage.
Edmunds got a sendoff at her high school. It was attended by two Archbishop Mitty alums who are Olympic champions, Brandi Chastain (soccer gold) and Kerri Walsh Jennings (three golds in beach volleyball).
I wasn't expecting anything so grand. ... I walked in and the entire school was chanting and cheering, said Edmunds. ... (Chastain and Walsh Jennings) came and gave speeches and just wished me luck, and it was just an amazing thing.
Her school also gave her three weeks of homework.
I actually just finished all of my math homework on the plane here, said Edmonds, who wore a single braid in front of her long, light brown hair.
Edmunds' mother is from the Russian city of Tver. She coached in Russia and put her daughter on the ice when she was 20 months old.
Edmunds was in Russia twice as an infant. This is her first time back. She grew up listening to her mother and grandmother speak Russian. She understands it but is working on speaking it. She took some questions in Russian from reporters and responded in English.
I love it. It's just so nice to be here. ... It's just great to interact with Russian people and try to practice my Russian as well, said Edmunds.
Her first priority is to compete.
I'm here to skate, she said. And I want my skating to speak for itself.