SAN JOSE -- Four years ago, Polina Edmunds was a precocious 11-year-old who carted around a white teddy bear at figure skating championships.
Now the Archbishop Mitty sophomore has a chance to qualify for the Sochi Games in her senior ladies' debut starting Thursday at the U.S. Olympic trials in Boston.
Edmunds, 15, is the most promising skater to emerge from Bay Area ice rinks since Rudy Galindo recorded his storybook victory at the 1996 U.S. Championships in San Jose.
A region that produced the likes of Peggy Fleming, Brian Boitano, Debi Thomas and Kristi Yamaguchi has suffered through a long drought since Galindo's performance. When the 2014 Winter Games start Feb. 6 in Russia, it will have been 22 years since Fremont's Yamaguchi was the area's last Olympic singles skater, winning the gold medal.
No one expects Edmunds to duplicate the feats of the former greats this year. If all goes well, the skater could be a force by the 2018 Games in South Korea.
But making the U.S. Olympic team is not inconceivable for a teen who has grown up at Sharks Ice San Jose. The United States has three spots and two favorites: reigning national champion Ashley Wagner and Chicago teenager Gracie Gold.
Beyond that, it's difficult to predict who might claim a berth after the free skate Saturday. Edmunds, the defending junior national champion, has the three highest scores recorded by an American this season.
"She has a very difficult program, and if she skates clean it could be enough," said Nina Edmunds, Polina's mother and coach.
Edmunds isn't the only Bay Area skater entered in the senior competition this week. Also performing are Stanford's Rachael Flatt, a 2010 Olympian who has struggled with injuries, Robbie Przepioski of Newark and ice dancers Madeline Heritage and Nathaniel Fast of Oregon who also train at Sharks Ice San Jose.
None of those skaters carry the expectations of the happy-go-lucky Edmunds, who brings perspective to the ice with her fluttering triple jumps.
"The only thing I can do is skate two clean programs," she said. "And then it will all be in the judges' hands."
There was a moment two years ago when it wasn't clear it would get to this point. Edmunds' enthusiasm for skating flagged after she placed sixth in the junior competition at the 2012 national championships in San Jose. Then 13, the skater thought she had trained enough to earn a medal, though in reality she had not.
"That big disappointment led to a big change," said David Glynn, who shares coaching duties with Nina Edmunds.
Last summer, Polina attacked workouts with renewed effort. It carried through to the fall, where she won two Junior Grand Prix competitions and placed fourth in the Grand Prix Finale in Japan.
Now the 5-foot-41/2 Edmunds enters the more cutthroat arena of senior-level competition. The leap was more difficult than expected for Gold last year.
"Especially being the junior national champion, there are more eyes on you and maybe more talk about you," she said.
Edmunds, though, has been preparing for this stage most of her life.
Nina Edmunds, a former Russian coach, put skates on Polina at 20 months, enrolled her in lessons with Glynn at age 4. The skater studied ballet, tap and jazz dance as part of her training.
Edmunds also has three-time Olympic medalist Marina Klimova choreographing programs. Klimova and husband Sergei Ponomarenko of Morgan Hill are legendary Russian ice dancers who won medals at the 1984, '88 and '92 Olympics.
And for the past half year, Edmunds has met monthly in El Segundo with renowned coach Frank Carroll to polish her skating.
"With anybody other than Frank, it might feel intimidating," Glynn said of the man who trained stars Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek. "His integrity is through the roof. He just wanted to do what he could to help her."
Edmunds' short program is a cha-cha medley by Ballroom Orchestra. The free skate is a romantic theme from the Norwegian play "Peer Gynt." Together, they showcase her Olympic potential.
"I move like a ballerina," Edmunds said. "I'm a very soft skater. But I tend to combine it with speed and power."
The timing of Polina's first national championships has not been lost on Nina, who married American tourist John Edmunds after they met in St. Petersburg, Russia.
"It's like the Motherland is calling you back," Nina said of the first Winter Olympics in Russia.
Polina has two performances this week to answer the call.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.