By Maura Sullivan Hill, Team FSO staff writer
Photos courtesy of Polina Edmunds and Figure Skaters Online
For elite figure skaters, interviews and talking to the media are part of the package when you compete at national and international competitions. They field questions in the mixed zone immediately after their performances, sit for press conferences at the end of competitions, and give interviews heading into major events.
But a couple of your favorite skaters have turned the tables and become the interviewers themselves, hosting their own podcasts and interview series:
Figure Skaters Online’s Maura Sullivan Hill spoke with three podcasters, all focused on sharing personal stories, digging deeper, and making connections to help the next generation of skaters. In the first part of her three-part series called “On the AIr”, Maura talks with 2014 Olympian and U.S. silver medalist Polina Edmunds on what inspired her to start podcasting, how she hopes to make a difference in the sport and where her show is headed next.
Polina Edmunds: The Skater’s Perspective
2014 Olympian Polina Edmunds graduated from Santa Clara University in California with a degree in communications in June 2020, in the middle of all the uncertainty and instability created by the pandemic. “It was basically a nightmare when it comes to starting your career,” Edmunds recalls. “I was thinking in the summer, [that] I’ve always wanted to start a podcast to discuss important issues in skating, and it seemed like the perfect time.”
She got connected with the Bleav (pronounced “believe”) Podcast Network, which produces sports podcasts hosted by former athletes, and launched her own show: Bleav in Figure Skating: Polina Edmunds.
She started out the show with episodes about her own personal skating story, from balancing full-time school with skating to dealing with injuries. Then, she expanded her coverage to include competition recaps and breakdowns, plus interviews with current competitors and fellow retired skaters. Edmunds has interviewed both her 2014 Olympic teammates, Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner. Her episodes cover skating on and off the ice, whether its competing for Team USA, collegiate skating, off-ice training or dealing with eating disorders.
“I’ve done so many of these interviews and I’ve been on that talent side of all the media things, and I thought, I’d love to be on the other side and bring my own personal knowledge from the sport to be able to give interviews in maybe a more personable way, or ask questions that don’t typically get asked,” Edmunds says. “And that’s exactly what my podcast has been able to do. I love approaching topics that are usually kept quiet or taboo.”
Edmunds sees it as a natural continuation of the way she approached her skating career, which, in her own estimation, she characterizes as unconventional. She attended full-time high school while competing at the Olympic level, and launched a comeback from injury while she was in college.
“In my skating career, I always felt like I was going against the wave, if that makes sense. I was pushing so hard and never quite breaking through in the ways that I saw my peers doing, just because I wasn’t the perfect cookie cutter skater, in some ways, both on and off the ice. And I was fine with that. I’ve always carried a lot of confidence, knowing my skills and my hard work,” she says. “And with that, people that actually know me know my story, and I thought it would be potentially useful for more people outside of my close group to hear [my story]. I know that there aren’t really a lot of skating podcasts or shows that talk about the experiences that I’m getting so many people to talk about now. So I knew that was an open door for me to start and somebody has got to start it. So why not?”
In addition to the podcast, Edmunds is hosting skating seminars, traveling across the U.S. and around the world, including Mexico and Estonia. So far, she’s been to rinks in Colorado, Florida, Idaho and Oregon, with plans for more on the horizon. The seminars include technique classes, off-ice conditioning sessions, and a speech from Edmunds to the group.
“I give a speech to parents, coaches and skaters about my story, but mostly about health practices for sports. I talk about body image with all the kids, the importance of eating and nutrition, and the importance of having a good training environment — and that goes for coaches, parents and skaters, it’s all together,” Edmunds says. “And really the lessons that you learn from sports that you’re going to apply later in life, no matter what level you get to. I am a very big advocate of having the best learning experiences in any sport that you do. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a top skater on Team USA, or if you come to the rink three times a week. It’s all applicable. And that’s really the message that I try to spread to people.”
With both her podcast and her seminars, Edmunds is focused on bettering her sport for the skaters who come after her.
“Especially for the next generation coming up, in order to create a really healthy atmosphere and environment, older skaters really need to come forward and express the hardships they went through and what we can do to make the situation easier for the next group,” Edmunds says. “So that’s been the goal, and with so many skaters coming on and being so open, that share personal stories of struggles or specific issues, it’s been very impactful for my audience and I’m very thankful that people are willing to share.”
As the Olympic season kicks off, she’s also looking forward to covering the Grand Prix Series, Nationals and the Games on her show.
You can keep up with it all at the Bleav in Figure Skating Podcast here.
Stay tuned for the second-part of our “On the Air” series coming next week!