SOCHI, Russia -- It was one jump. One double Axel performed in warm-ups Wednesday night by San Jose, Calif., teenager Polina Edmunds that calmed down everyone around her.
Coach David Glynn immediately relaxed at the Iceberg Skating Palace as the spotlight blared down.
He gave the Archbishop Mitty High sophomore a few final words of encouragement and then sent her off to meet the world.
Edmunds said hello with a lively 2 1/2-minute routine that included three triple jumps and that double Axel that took a year to master when she was 10.
Crisp. Confident. Cool.
Edmunds, 15, proved quickly she isn't too fragile for her sport's grandest stage, scoring a personal best 61.04 points in the women's short program to place seventh on the first day of one of the Olympics' centerpiece events.
The American team will enter Thursday night's free skate in position to medal, with current U.S. champion Gracie Gold of Chicago in fourth and Ashley Wagner of Virginia in sixth.
The Americans could not have been more pleased with the showing, but it probably won't be good enough to earn the country's first gold medal since 2002.
It seems the crown still belongs to the Queen -- Yuna Kim of South Korea. The airy performer won the short program with a score of 74.92 points in her attempt to become the third woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles. The others are legends Sonja Henie of Norway and Katarina Witt of Germany.
Kim, 23, heads into the long program ahead of a couple surprising names, however. Adelina Sotnikova of Russia is second with 74.64 points, followed by five-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy with 74.12 points.
The stunners: Russian sensation Yulia Lipnitskaya is fifth, and 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan is 16th after a complete collapse.
The breakdowns by such big stars underscore how formidable Edmunds performed when it mattered most.
"To see her so comfortable on Olympic ice shows her strength of character," said Glynn, who has coached Edmunds since she was 4.
Now Edmunds hopes to duplicate the effort Thursday night in the 4--1/2-minute free skate that is much more trying on the nerves.
Winning a medal in her first Olympics has become an uphill climb against skaters who simply are more sophisticated if not her technical equal.
It's all part of the growing process for a skater who is seen as America's promising future.
Lipnitskaya also has some growing to do. She entered the cauldron with hometown fans screaming her name just before she began. She said later it didn't bother her.
But it might have betrayed her icy veins. The 15-year-old who won the women's program of the new Olympic team event looked like a medal winner until falling on her final jump, a triple flip. The judges gave Lipnitskaya 65.23 points, well below her personal best.
Gold had a solid, if not perfect, skate to earn 7.59 points more than Edmunds.
"This is about throwing it out there, that when you have a shaky landing on a triple Lutz, you stick that triple toes," Gold said.
Wagner showed for the second time in two weeks that American skating officials made the right decision putting her on the Olympic team after she finished fourth at the nationals.
The team's most veteran skater was buoyant after practically racing out to the center of the rink to begin her program.
"I've been way too tired, way too sweaty, way too exhausted and angry with training to not go out there and do it," Wagner said.
Edmunds wanted to do what she has done "a million times" -- skate her two programs cleanly.
She made her international debut at the senior level wearing an aureolin-colored gown and a yellow ribbon in her pulled-back blond hair. Edmunds had the audience clapping from the start of her cha-cha medley that showcases her playfulness on the ice.
Once that Latin music began, she was "just Polina."
"I just hit the mode of dancing, and by the time I was getting ready for my Lutz it was pretty automatic," Edmunds said.
The audience, well aware her mother, Nina Edmunds, is Russian, immediately began clapping along.
Polina topped the first 16 skaters despite a few bobbles. Then came Kim, who floated through a rendition of "Send in the Clowns," as soulful a skate as the music.
It's unfair to contrast the two skaters, as Kim is one of history's greatest.
Edmunds still is a wide-eyed kid soaking up the atmosphere.
That became abundantly clear when the schoolgirl tweeted a photo of her with Kim in the skaters' room as if she were a fan.
Well, Glynn kept telling his student to remember to enjoy herself in Sochi.
"I try to stay in the moment and remind myself ice is ice," Edmunds said.
Now she has to do it one more time. Edmunds will be the second-to-last skater to perform in the penultimate group Thursday.
Most fans will be awaiting the final grouping of the six that should determine all three medalists.
Edmunds isn't worried about any of that as she concludes her maiden Olympic journey.
"No matter how I do on the short I want to attack the long pretty strongly," she said.
She's ready to take her shot.
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