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May 30, 2017

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Half-Russian US teen Edmunds has eye on prize

SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. newcomer Polina Edmunds has warned that, competing in her first Olympics at the age of just 15, she can match the likes of Russia's teenage star Julia Lipnitskaia.

The United States finished off the women's podium for the first time in 46 years in Vancouver, and Edmunds, Gracie Gold, and Ashley Wagner will be bidding to rectify that starting on Wednesday.

Edmunds, whose Russian-born mother Nina is a figure skating coach, booked her ticket to Sochi by finishing a surprise second in her first senior-level competition at nationals behind Gold, with two-time winner Wagner finishing fourth.

"Nobody comes into this competition as the champion already," said the youngster from San Jose of Lipnitskaia who dazzled as she helped her country to team gold a week ago.

"Everyone has a chance at winning it. Julia is a great skater, she has many qualities about her like her flexibility. Everyone has different natural talents. Julia's flexibility works for her."

Edmunds, whose mother originally comes from Tver, Russia, while her father works with a Californian software company, has spent the past few weeks training in Germany and Austria.

"I'm really excited to compete and visit the venue and see everything the Games has," she said, despite admitting that all she knew about Sochi before arriving was that it was on the Black Sea.

"I was in Europe for two weeks, and it definitely helped to be away from all of the excitement in the U.S.

"I've been in isolation, training and preparing for the Games. Now I'm here, and I can't wait to show everyone in the crowd and judges what I can do.

"It's been nice and crazy and exciting at the same time. I've been training really hard and keeping my eye on the prize."

Edmunds added that she hoped the Russian crowd would give her some support.

"I was here when I was two years old. I can understand everybody and speak a little bit so it's nice to interact with everybody. It's amazing being half Russian and American and competing in Russia.

"Hopefully they'll cheer for me too."

Wagner, 23, and Gold, 18, have both competed already on the Sochi ice winning team bronze with the United States.

Both Edmunds and Gold are coached by veteran Frank Carroll, 75, who led American Evan Lysacek to gold in Vancouver and Kazakh Denis Ten to men's bronze this year.

"It's always great to have an experienced guide on this journey," said Gold.

"He's been a rock these past couple of months. He's never thrown off or surprised about anything. He's so calm. He's been a great influence."

Gold added: "Julia is a machine and an excellent skater. When it comes down to competition, it's not always about the best skater, it's about who skates the best in that competition.

"We're just going to try to beat her at her own game and on her own turf and at the end, leave everything out on the ice."

Olympic and world champion Kim Yu-na and Japan's Mao Asada, the Vancouver silver medalist are among the favorites for the gold.

"No one can get a sense of what Yu-na can bring to the table but she's still excellent and in excellent shape so you can really not count her out," said Gold.

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