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!
Check out Rachael Flatt and other Olympic athletes to keep an eye on in Vancouver
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: 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.