Ice Network

Pinches of Salt: Russians don't scare Edmunds

Hicks an artist on, and off, the ice; Chartrand practicing triple Axel
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Polina Edmunds was brilliant in her "Flamenco Medley" short program at the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. -Jay Adeff

The Russians are no longer coming. They've already arrived.

Beyond Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova, two-time world junior champion Elena Radionova, reigning world silver medalist Julia Lipnitskaia and world fourth-place finisher Anna Pogorilaya, Russian juniors, like Serafima Sakhanovich and Evgenia Medvedeva, are lighting up the Junior Grand Prix [JGP] circuit. Over the past four seasons, young Russians have won 10-of-12 possible world junior medals.

When Polina Edmunds launches her senior Grand Prix career at Cup of China in November, she will square off against Lipnitskaia, as well as European medalist Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. At her next event, she's slated to face Sotnikova.

A tough ask, but Edmunds thinks she has the goods to be a contender.

"It's not intimidating, it's competition," the 16-year-old said. "There are always strong competitors; otherwise, there wouldn't be competition.

"I definitely have the hardest technical (elements) right now, with triple Lutz-triple toe and triple flip- loop-triple Salchow. I know I can do everything, and I can win if I keep going forward. But everyone is strong; you can't count anyone out. It's nice to just focus on myself and progress."

David Glynn, who coaches the skater with Edmund's mom, Nina, in San Jose, California, agrees with his student.

"[Alexei] Mishin gave a really great interview at a JGP (Junior Grand Prix). He was very honest and frank about the Russian girls and the number of them," Glynn said. "He said it goes in cycles, and for a long time they didn't have anyone in the men or ladies.

"Right now they have great girls," he continued. "It's wonderful we have American skaters who are right up there with them and can do all the technical elements."

Asked flat out whether Edmunds could challenge for Grand Prix medals this season, Glynn doesn't hesitate.

"Completely, there is no question about that, and not just in the technical elements but in the components and the skating skills," he said. "Absolutely, all around.

"For Polina, it always comes down to her training. She works so hard, she trains so consistently, sticks to a plan day in and day out. That's what she relies on and that's her strength. ... This year she will show she truly is a mature, senior lady."

Hicks finds comfort in photography

Visit Courtney Hicks' Instagram account for fun photos of the 18-year-old Californian goofing off with pals. Check out her photography account for serious nature studies from the parks she visits when she travels for competitions.

The most recent additions: breathtaking shots of Kolob Canyons, one of the main attractions at Utah's Zion National Park.

"I like to see something, take a picture of it and then be able to come back, look at it, and remember everything associated with that picture," said Hicks, who won the free skate at the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and took home the silver medal.

"I love sunsets, butterflies and flowers, and water -- I really love water," she said. "It's nice to set up the shot, figure out the framing, edit it -- just do a ton of different things."

It all began when the skater borrowed mom Nelisa's tiny, hand-held camera almost a decade ago. Since then, it's grown into a serious pursuit. Hicks thinks her skating helps her photography, and vice versa.

"I feel my photographs have gotten better as I've been working on my artistic skills on the ice," Hicks said. "It's nice to have that distraction so I can go and think about something else and relax and kind of be away from skating for a little bit."

Jere Michael and Alex Chang, who coach Hicks in Southern California, applaud her pastime.

"Courtney might not always admit it, but she's a very artistic thinker, she really has a photographers' eye," Chang said. "This season, we're really trying to capture that part of her personality on the ice."

Chartrand's triple Axel pursuit

With Japan's three-time world champion Mao Asada sitting out the season, no lady regularly competes a triple Axel on the international circuit. In Salt Lake City, both Mirai Nagasu and Alaine Chartrand, fifth in Canada last season, included the jump in their practice sessions but not their programs.

Chartrand, 18, placed fourth at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, missing out on the bronze medal by a hair.

"It was her first time skating in the final group, and she had a little bit of a wait," said Michelle Leigh, who coaches Chartrand in Barrie, Ontario. "The altitude may have hurt. ... She pushed through the second half, but she made a few too many errors."

Leigh isn't sure when her student, who competes at Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup this fall, will put the jump in her Dr. Zhivago free skate.

"We alternate the triple Axel into the program at home, so she does a program with the Axel and then she does a program with the back-up plan," Leigh said. "We'll see. It just depends on how she feels and the goal of the event she is in. We will definitely keep doing it in practice and develop it."

Reporter's notebook: Unlike many top young skaters, Edmunds is not home schooled. She is a junior at Archbishop Mitty High School, which offers a block-rotational schedule that provides time for training: "I go full time; I'm taking five classes. I took chemistry this summer so I wouldn't have to deal with it throughout the year. The block schedule makes it manageable; it's not as many classes in the day. I have three classes throughout the week (in each subject)."