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Winning such sweet joy for crowned Edmunds

San Jose skater rides Romeo and Juliet to gold; Bell takes silver, Long bronze

Polina Edmunds, who had never won a national medal, bagged the junior ladies gold.
Polina Edmunds, who had never won a national medal, bagged the junior ladies gold. (Jay Adeff)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/24/2013) - She may not have gotten quite the score she wanted, but Polina Edmunds has something far more important: the satisfaction of knowing she performed her best on the national stage.

Oh, and she also owns the 2013 U.S. junior ladies title.

"I'm really excited that I'm a national champion," said the poised 14-year-old from San Jose, Calif., after her win at the 2013 U.S. Championships. "It's my first national medal, and for it to be gold, that's amazing."

Edmunds' free skate, choreographed by Marina Klimova to Nino Rota's Romeo and Juliet, unfolded like an ethereal dream. Delicately nuanced choreography belied the ambition of her jumps, including two opening triple-triple combinations, a Lutz-toe and a flip-toe -- although the first toe was judged under-rotated, and the second was downgraded, those flaws did not detract from her entrancing performance.

The teenager went on to land three more triples, and her two final spins, including a superb closing layback, rated Level 4. She earned 101.70 points for first place in the free and ended with 159.87.

"I was really happy with my performance. It was a good skate and it was at nationals," Edmunds said. "I thought I did really well and I'm really proud of myself for hanging in there and doing everything."

Edmunds, who has put her triple-triples out in competition throughout the season, was surprised by her score, lower than expected as a result of the downgrade and under-rotations.

"I'm kind of disappointed, of course, with all of the difficulty in my program. I wanted a higher score," she said. "I'm really happy with my skate, so there's not much more I can do."

David Glynn, who coaches the skater at Shark's Ice in San Jose, thinks the issue is not so much his student's jumps, as it is the International Judging System (IJS) method of review.

"When you are learning triple jumps in a real time -- when you see them in real time in regular speed -- they look fine," Glynn said. "And then, sometimes when you super slow-motion them and zoom in on the toe pick when it hits the ice, then all of a sudden you think, 'Mmm, maybe that toe did come down a bit short.' I'm not sure that's the right way to be evaluating all of these jumps all the time."

Skating her free to music from West Side Story, Mariah Bell gained credit for four clean triples, including a triple flip combination, but popped her second intended triple flip into a single and fell on a triple Lutz. Her strong musicality and mature style, combined with Cindy Stuart's intricate choreography, gave her the highest program components score of the event, and her 152.80 points won the silver medal.

"I feel like the mistakes I made will haunt me, but it's something to make me work harder for next year," the 16-year-old Bell said. "I was really in the moment, and then just for a split second, I let my mind veer off and popped the flip. I got it back together, and I thought I had the Lutz, but didn't."

Bell credits Stuart with giving her a more sophisticated look on the ice.

"I absolutely love her. She is very efficient when she works, and she has a total plan for when you come to work with her," Bell said. "I watched the movie before we choreographed it to get in the mindset of Maria."

Barbie Long, who sat fourth after falling on a triple in her short program, climbed to third place after a solid free skate, also choreographed to West Side Story.

The athletic skater opened with a solid double Axel-triple toe combination and landed four other clean triples. A triple loop was deemed under-rotated. She earned 101.48 to take second place in the free, and finished with 152.53 points overall.

"I had a very good comeback from yesterday and I think I skated close to my best," the 16-year-old said. "I think I could have had more confidence at the beginning of my program. I didn't believe in myself enough until the end. I need to work on getting to that before instead of working up to it."

Long had a difficult run-up to Omaha, with boot problems limiting her training time.

"These past two weeks, I've had to change skates and my blades were mounted wrong, and I had to practice with them like that," she said. "I fixed them and they are better now, but this was very good considering I've had a rough two weeks."

Karen Chen, the 2012 U.S. novice champion, skated with musicality and emotion to Joshua Bell's "Fantasie for Violin and Orchestra," but all six of her triples were judged either under-rotated, or downgraded. Still, she earned 144.56 points for fourth place overall.

"I'm pretty proud of myself because I felt I did my best, and that's all I care about," the 13-year-old said. "I just wanted to go out there, smile and have fun, and enjoy the whole process."