After nabbing silver for two straight years at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Rachael Flatt ascended to the top of the podium in January. A solid free skate with seven triple jumps secured her her first national title — and a spot on the Olympic team. "It's so exciting that I broke 200 points at nationals," Flatt, 17, tells TVGuide.com of her event record. "Of course, there is always room for improvement, and I have discussed those areas with Tom [Zakrajsek, her coach] and Lori [Nichol, her choreographer] and continue to push myself... I am incredibly proud to be on the U.S. team and to have the opportunity to compete on the world stage." A straight-A student, the Colorado Springs, Colo., native divides her time between the ice and the books, and has applied to nine colleges. See what she has to say about her last-minute training for the Olympics, whether she's an underdog and more.
Catch the ladies' short program Tuesday at 8/7c and the free skate Thursday at 8/7c on NBC.
TVGuide.com: How are you preparing for the games?
Rachael Flatt: I am sticking to my original training plan. Typically I have about three to four sessions per day. I have two in the morning and one or two in the afternoon. One of my afternoon classes is power-stroking and I go to the Olympic Training Center twice a week for training. I also do ballet and other strength-training workouts off the ice. Lori visited for several days to work with [men's fifth-place finisher] Patrick Chan, who trains at the Colorado Springs World Arena, and myself, to tweak and fine-tune our programs. It's always great to work with Lori — she brings a fresh eye to our training!
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TVGuide.com: You're known for your consistency and athleticism, and we've rarely seen you falter on your triples. Do you think that gives you an edge in the Olympics since a lot of favorites have underperformed there?
Flatt: I have learned to trust my training and I think that is certainly one of the keys to my consistency. The old saying: "Train like it is a competition, and you will compete like you train" — I certainly believe in that. Practice, practice, practice goes a long way to building consistency, and yes, perhaps building an edge.
TVGuide.com: There's a lot of talk about this transitional period in American women's figure skating, and you and Mirai Nagasu are considered underdogs. What do you make of that?
Flatt: I think that there are several transitions. One is from the old 6.0 system where you might have one or two skaters dominate the field to the current [system], where you may see a group of skaters trading victories over the course of several seasons. To me, that is a good thing [since] it truly is a "competition." It's not a done deal when you walk into the arena and expect the same skater to win time after time. The transition [in the U.S.] is a natural cycle of development. There was a strong group of skaters that came up in the '90s and now, you are beginning to see another cycle. The '90s cycle was reflective of a period of time when the skaters could compete at the international events at a younger age than the current system allows.
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TVGuide.com: Do you like being thought of as an underdog?
Flatt: Are the younger U.S. ladies underdogs? I can only speak for myself. I don't mind when other skaters are in the limelight when it comes to the pressure of expectations. Sometimes being a little removed from the center of the radar can be good! We all have to go out and skate!
TVGuide.com: American women have medaled at every Olympics since 1968. Do you feel any pressure to continue the trend?
Flatt: I am focused on specific technical and performance goals for each program. ... Those are the things that I can control. The judges are in charge of placements and I'm in charge of giving them a reason for their scores.
TVGuide.com: Dorothy Hamill has become your mentor. What's the best advice she's given you?
Flatt: Dorothy is absolutely amazing and I can say that the best part of working with her is knowing how much she believes in me and she appreciates me for who I am. I have admired Dorothy since I was a little girl and to have her be so involved in my skating and offer advice, be it on or off the ice, is an incredible honor. She has so many life experiences and so much knowledge of what I am going through. It is just incredible to have her on my team and to have her as a friend.
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TVGuide.com: You're a student with a full courseload. Do you ever get overwhelmed, or wish you had more time for school or training?
Flatt: Balancing skating, school and other activities can be difficult, so time management is key. ... I keep my energy by staying focused and again really managing my time. I also find strength from my parents, my coaches and [friends], who really help me stay grounded and support me.
TVGuide.com: What do you do in your spare time?
Flatt: Normal teenager stuff. I like to hang out with my friends, go to the movies, play tennis, play mini-golf, go to the beach, do a little shopping.
TVGuide.com: Will being an Olympian help your chances of getting into college? [Flatt was accepted into Stanford University after this interview.]
Flatt: I hope so! But I am also realistic and I know that my grades and activities have to stand on their own. I know that once I get accepted to colleges and decide which school I will attend — I am very interested in engineering, chemistry and biomechanics — that I will narrow my choices based upon where I will train, coaching, etc.