VANCOUVER — Rachael Flatt knows better than to label herself the favorite in women's figure skating at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Or does she?
Flatt, the Cheyenne Mountain High School senior fresh off winning the 2010 U.S. championship, generally is considered to have only an outside chance at a medal here at the Vancouver Games. Same with her U.S. teammate and national runner-up, Mirai Nagasu of Pasadena, Calif.
They know that world champion Kim Yu-Na of South Korea is the front-runner, that Canadian champion and world No. 2 Joannie Rochette will have the crowd behind her, and that Japan placed 3-4 at the 2009 World Championships. (Flatt was fifth.)
But Flatt and Nagasu, who have become friends from years of competing and traveling together, acted like anything but also-rans during a press conference last weekend at the Main Media Center.
"Mirai and I are both incredibly excited to come out here and kick some butt," Flatt said. "I think Yu-Na has the most pressure. I think coming in as an underdog certainly helps. I think I function well under the radar."
Nagasu phrased it differently, saying, "I feel like, hopefully, I'll just be able to stand next to Yu-Na and, while she's carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, I'll just be holding it up with a finger."
Flatt, who's nicknamed The Rock for always landing her jumps in competition, wasn't expected to win at Nationals, either. But the 17-year-old was the only contender to land a triple-triple jump combination, among seven triples in her long program, and that helped her to a career-best score of 200.11 points. If she can duplicate it here, that score would likely put her on the medals stand.
Still, Flatt has taken a different approach from any of her Olympic rivals. After coming to Vancouver with coach Tom Zakrajsek for the opening ceremony and several days of training, they flew back Monday to Colorado Springs for several more days in the real world. They'll return Friday to Canada.
"That's how we planned it all along," Flatt said.
After sleeping in her own bed, practicing at the World Arena Ice Hall and, yes, going to school, Flatt will come back to pursue the dream of her skating life.
"I'm just looking forward to going out and competing against the best girls in the world at the Olympic Games," she said. "And, hopefully, performing my best under the best circumstances."