SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -

The world is already taking notice of international skating star Emily Scott during her Olympic debut, but the road to Sochi almost did not happen for the 24-year-old Springfield native.

Emily Scott showed the world what she can really do, coming from behind, in her very first qualifying event at the Olympics.  No one was more proud than her coach of 20 years, Ted Hall.

"She was just a little girl that got brought out here skating when she was about three-and-a-half or four-years-old," Hall said.

Hall said he saw the potential in Emily by age 5.

"At 5 years old, this little girl had determination, just unbelievable, desire, heart; she knew what she wanted," Hall said.

During her elementary school years, Emily often trained up to five hours a day.  The tyke won her first ever world rollerskating title in China by age 7.  However, the home life that Emily had to overcome in those early years made going forward with her dream incredibly difficult.

NBC announcers talked about some of the struggles that she faced as Emily lined up for her first qualifying race in Sochi.  They pointed out Emily's mother and half sister are both in prison for crimes related to methamphetamine.

Emily's mother went to jail when Emily was just 8 years old.  Rosie Brown was Emily's teacher in Springfield when it happened.

"I knew the situation of her family life, and it really, really tugged at my heart a little," Brown said.

Brown said, even as a third grader, Emily was determined to stay focused on her goals.

"It's just amazing to me.  I just see where she originally was and what she accomplished," Brown said.

Coach Hall said Emily is a survivor who had remarkable maturity at a young age.

"She says, 'Well, mom chose that path, and I have chosen this path.'  She says, 'I'm going to go for it,'" Hall said.

Hall said Emily won every world title possible in rollerskating.  Coaches and other Olympians finally convinced her to take on the ice just five years ago, but the training was not easy.

"She was skating eight to ten hours a day and trying to work a night time job to midnight or one o'clock, go home, sleep for two to three hours, get up, and this was six days a week," Hall said.

Emily's dream nearly unraveled last summer when her Olympic funding was slashed by nearly 75 percent.  On her own, she did not know how she would keep training in Salt Lake City.  However, a driven competitor, she found a way.

"They cut the funding to $600 a month last year.  She worked a part-time job, applied for food stamps, somehow raised the money," NBC announcers said during his first Olympics race.

Emily's determination is already apparent at the games.  It may be a surprise to those who do not know her.

"It's amazing she's even here," announcers said during the race.

But those who do know Emily, like her Hillcrest high school history teacher, are not surprised at all.

"If you have passion, if you have ambition, you have a goal, and you work hard, you can make you can make it all the way to the top, and that's what Emily's doing right now," said Jeremy George, a Hillcrest teacher.

When asked after her first race if the Games are emotional for her, Emily had a simple answer.

"Oh yeah, definitely, but I can't think about that.  I'm just here to race," she said.

Emily skates again very early Thursday morning in the quarterfinals of the 500-meter race.  The longer races start this weekend, and those are the races that Emily considers her best events.