Ice Network

Edmunds focused on musicality of new programs

Two-time U.S. silver medalist fully healed after bone bruise setback
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With the help of choreographer Rudy Galindo, Polina Edmunds is opting to focus on the musicality of her new programs for the 2016-17 season. -Courtesy of Polina Edmunds

Sometimes, an athlete's will masks signs that a seemingly healed injury may not be fully healed after all.

That's what happened to Polina Edmunds this summer. Back in March, the U.S. silver medalist was preparing for her third consecutive world championships when pain in her right foot made landing triple-triple combinations near impossible. A bruised bone was diagnosed, and her season ended early.

A few weeks later, she was on the mend, performing in the Stars on Ice tour until May 8. Then, it was back to her rink, Sharks Ice at San Jose in San Jose, California, to choreograph new programs with Rudy Galindo and resume training with coaches David Glynn and her mom, Nina Edmunds.

But by June, the pain returned. Full-out training (jumping and running programs) was off the table.

"We just realized I needed a more definite break to take the time to really heal," Polina said. "And so I just did off-ice (training) for a month or so."

The Russian-born Nina, a former figure skater, takes herself to task for letting her daughter do too much, too soon, in stiff new skates.

"It was a mistake of all of us, the coaches and Polina, to push Polina to do some jumps when she wasn't ready in her new skates yet," she said. "We're all kind of blaming ourselves.

"She has always been so able and motivated," Nina continued. "At 8 years old, she passed senior moves in the field tests. ... At 12 years old, she had all of her triples. At 15 years old, she competed at the Olympics. ... She's always shown what she's learned in competition at 100 percent, so that success gave her the confidence she could do it."

Edmunds spent much of July at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, working with United States Olympic Committee strength and conditioning trainer Brandon Siakel to keep in shape and learn how to work around her injury. She returned to San Jose at the end of July.

"I'm cleared to skate again, and I'm feeling really good," Edmunds said. "I have a plan on how to ease in. I'm so happy to be healthy and back." 

She's polishing her programs, which she will show at Champs Camp later this month.

"I'm not playing any characters this season -- I'm more focused on the genre of the music," she said. "The choreography from Rudy really speaks to that. I'm excited to show my musicality."

Nina thinks changing up music and choreography each season is essential to her daughter's growth as a performer.

"If you look at Polina, she always showed different styles every year," Nina said. "From 4 years old, she was taking ballet classes, then contemporary (dance) classes. Trying new styles -- tango, cha cha, ballet -- keeps it very interesting. You can't come with the same style of program every year."

Edmunds' new short, set to Welsh composer Karl Jenkins' "Palladio," has a sharp edge -- far different from last year's ethereal "Moonlight Sonata."

"We wanted something in the modern dance direction, and I think Polina is fierce and really awesome in this," Galindo said. "I watched a lot of modern ballet for ideas, and we brought in a modern dance teacher to help enhance the arm movements."

Edmunds kicks the program off with her triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, set to the music's allegretto first movement, well known from DeBeers diamond commercials.

"She's opening with her big jumps, and I'm picturing flames coming through her fingertips -- pow, pow, pow," Galindo said with a laugh.

They went in the opposite direction for Edmunds' new free skate, set to Sarah Brightman's renditions of "Bilitis - Générique" and "Time to Say Goodbye." Galindo, Nina and Polina chose the pieces together, and music engineer Bill Hare edited the selections.

"It's romantic and gentle; [Brightman's] voice is so beautiful," Polina said. "I don't even know how to describe it. I think it's a big step up in maturity for me."

"I think I'd use the word 'angelic' -- that's what we're going for," Galindo said. "It's a very mature line, designed around all of Polina's dance training: her long arms and legs, her toe point. She's like a ballerina with skates on. Show her one movement, and she does it easily, the first time."

A new member has been added to the team this season: designer Jef Billings, famous for his work with Stars on Ice as well as countless skating champions including Michelle Kwan and Sarah Hughes.

"Jef is a master," Galindo said. "He listens to the music, he studies the programs, and he's a perfectionist. When he said, 'Yes, I would love to design Polina's costumes,' I just went, 'Oh, my God!'"

Polina also has a new Sharks Ice training partner: 2015 Canadian champion Nam Nguyen, who began training under Glynn in May.

"I never had another elite-level skater on the ice with me growing up," she said. "It's cool because we're friends. We're the same age and we can joke around with each other, push each other. It's nice having someone with you to share the hardships, the rewards and everything."

The skater will soon have more chances to interact with peers. On Sept. 21, she will start classes as a freshman at nearby Santa Clara University.

"I'm really excited to step out of the bubble I've kind of been in for the last years, just experience a different part of life," Polina said. "I've always liked learning and interacting with different teachers and my peers, to have different opinions around me and kind of analyze what I think about certain situations. Now, I get to do it at college."

This fall, she will take writing, history and political science classes, all scheduled in the early morning.

"I'll have the rest of the day to skate, do schoolwork and everything else," Polina said. "I think it's going to work out well for me, at least this season, and I think as a whole, it's a great school to accommodate my skating."

Nina thinks her daughter's university schedule may be a bit easier than her days at Archbishop Mitty High School.

"School has always played a great role in Polina's life," she said. "It teaches that [life] is not all about her and her skating. Other people and things are very important.

"The high school helped us a lot by giving her a block schedule, and she was in school from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Now, she will be in school a shorter time, in the mornings. I think it will be great."