SAN JOSE, Calif. --Archbishop Mitty teacher Anthony Rojo knew the lanky sophomore in his social studies class was a good figure skater.
But he had no inkling when Polina Edmunds took time off last week that she would return to class Tuesday as an Olympian.
Edmunds, 15, is headed to the Sochi Games next month after surprising the skating world in her senior national debut, where she finished second to champion Gracie Gold.
Her arresting performance last weekend at the U.S. Figure Skating championships in Boston sent a jolt of Olympic fever across the South Bay that was going strong Monday at Mitty and Sharks Ice San Jose.
Edmunds is the Bay Area's first Olympic singles skater since Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale took sixth at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
Despite the fanfare, Mitty teachers expect Tuesday to be a "typical day in class with Polina," Rojo said.
"Once she comes back she is right back with the group," added Janet Fenker, Edmunds' biology teacher. "I'm amazed at how she switches gears."
The San Jose Olympian said education has been her main focus despite the hours spent at Sharks Ice honing her craft. Edmunds underscored that notion last week in Boston when contacting Fenker to find out what assignments she was missing. Without being told she had to have it done, the sophomore created a power point presentation on how common prescription drugs work--just like her classmates.
That doesn't surprise Rojo. In the fall, he told Edmunds she could make up a test he was giving just as the skater returned from an international competition.
"No, I'm ready to take it now," the teen said.
Thanks to Edmunds, Bay Area coaches expect to get a bump in interest in local skating that should continue to grow next month in Sochi.
Although the region hasn't had a skater this good since San Jose's Rudy Galindo won the 1996 national title, the area has been on the rise for the past six years. The resurgence goes beyond Edmunds.
Karen Chen of Fremont was named to the junior World Championship team Sunday despite withdrawing from the free skate last week. Chen, 14, broke her ankle three months before the national championships, and also is expected to become a force on the senior level.
A handful of other local skaters won medals in lower-level divisions in Boston. But nothing motivates like the Olympics.
"In some areas, going to the Olympics is a far-fetched" idea," said Jonathon O'Dougherty, a San Jose ice dance coach who competed for Britain. "Now there is one a little bit closer to home and more motivating for kids."
Edmunds began skating at Sharks Ice at 20 months and has trained with her mom, Nina Edmunds, and David Glynn since age 4. Their neighborhood rink happens to be the largest facility west of the Mississippi. Sharks Ice is one of only seven U.S. facilities that operates at least four NHL-sized ice rinks.
"People who appear to come out of nowhere, don't," O'Dougherty said. "Polina has certainly put in her 10,000 hours. It's great for the rink and great for skaters to see it is achievable."
Fremont's Gilley Nickelson, who coaches Chen, predicted a groundswell of talent to pour out of the Bay Area in the coming years. Part of the reason is the scoring system has leveled the field as far as training, allowing new coaches to establish themselves.
Edmunds and her coaches are showcasing what can happen.
Drama teacher Sharon Jones of Chaboya Middle School in San Jose was not surprised by Edmunds' poise in Boston. Edmunds' eighth-grade teacher recalled Monday how calm her protege acted during junior high stage productions.
Watching her on television last weekend, Jones thought, "That's Polina. That's my girl."
That's a homegrown Olympian.
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