After waiting two decades, the Bay Area has a new ice princess.
San Jose's Polina Edmunds held up to the pressure Saturday night to finish second in her senior debut at the U.S. Figure Skating championships at TD Garden in Boston, a performance that should lead to the Sochi Games next month.
Edmunds, 15, could not overcome Gracie Gold, who won her first national title by skating flawlessly to "Sleeping Beauty." Gold, 18, had two-day total of 211.69 points, while Edmunds finished with 193.63.
Mirai Nagasu was third, ahead of two-time champion Ashley Wagner, who was devastated by her breakdown at the worst possible moment.
Edmunds, an Archbishop Mitty sophomore, might be too young to let the pressure bother her. She landed all but one of eight triple jumps in the most technically difficult program among the ladies while skating to a romantic theme from the Norwegian play "Peer Gynt," with music by Edvard Grieg.
"I think tonight was the night we all needed to prove ourselves, and I think I proved myself," she told reporters.
Edmunds did more than that. After she finished second to Gold in the short program, many remained skeptical that Edmunds could do it again in the free skate.
After landing jump and jump with an airy capriciousness, Edmunds landed into the hearts of American figure skating fans, many of whom knew practically nothing about her before this week.
"It was a pleasure to watch Polina tonight," coach David Glynn said by phone. "She showed her strength and character and showed she was as tough as nails."
Now Edmunds must wait until Sunday to learn if she earned one of three spots on the 2014 Olympic team. While placement in Boston is one of the main factors in making the team, U.S. Figure Skating's selection committee also will consider the skaters' broader resumes. The team will be announced at 9 a.m.
Edmunds won the U.S. junior crown last year and competed this season on the junior level at Grand Prix meets.
Here's the dilemma for the committee: Wagner was considered America's best medal hope before this week's disastrous show. She has competed at three world championships with a career-best fourth in 2012.
Will the committee sacrifice Edmunds or Nagasu, fourth at the Vancouver Games four years ago, for its most veteran skater?
"I'm a skater that deserves to be on the team," Wagner told reporters. "But right now under the pressure of (that) becoming true or not, it's hard to block that out. You feel like your legs are full of lead, and it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing as two-time nationals champion to put out a performance like that."
She failed to become the first skater to win three consecutive national titles since Michelle Kwan from 2003-05.
Gold, on the other hand, has been hyped as America's next big star since winning the U.S. junior title in San Jose two years ago. She called her performance Saturday a "fairy tale."
"The nerves are something I've battled with and let them get into my head, but tonight I felt strangely calm," Gold said.
Competing in Sochi would be a special moment for the Edmunds. Polina's mother and coach, Nina Edmunds, grew up in Russia. She taught skating there for six years before meeting American tourist John Edmunds and moving to the Bay Area.
"It's always been my dream to go to the Olympics in 2014 because my mom's family lives in Russia," Polina Edmunds said.
She reminded reporters Saturday night that Tara Lipinski also was 15 when she outperformed Kwan to win the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Games.
That's Edmunds' pitch to become the first Bay Area singles competitor to qualify for the Winter Olympics since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992.
Edmunds already earned another big distinction: She is the region's first skater to win a singles medal since San Jose's Rudy Galindo took the national title at his hometown rink in 1996.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.