Golden Skate

USA’s Scimeca and Knierim look to medal in Milwaukee

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim

USA’s Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim perform their long program at 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy.

U.S. Champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim recently competed at 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy for their ISU Challenger Series event (Senior B) where they finished second.

“We feel that Nebelhorn was perfect in the sense that we made mistakes but are still ahead of where we were this time last year,” said Scimeca. “We were eager to get back home and address some transitional changes and work on bringing the fire in the short. We love starting the season there.”

“It was also cool to skate with (Tatiana) Volososhar and (Maxim) Trankov as well,” added the 24-year-old. “Personally, they are my role models.”

The team placed fourth (58.00) in the short program which featured a very good back outside death spiral, lift, and combination spin—all of which were graded a level 4 and earned positive grades of execution (GOE). They also displayed good footwork as well as solid throw triple flip, however, there was a fall in the side-by-side triple Salchows and the twist was a bit off on the landing.

“After the death spiral, my legs started to tense up and I felt like I had Bambi legs,” Scimeca explained. “The stumble on the twist startled me, and I lost my focus going into my jump. I channeled the anger I had from falling into the rest of the program and remained as solid as I could.”

“The twist is our strong element, so it was weird to mess it up,” added her partner. “It became a light-hearted joke after the event because the Russians had the same mistake on their twist. It happens.”

Nevertheless, the team rebounded for a second place finish (121.56) in the long and overall (179.56). Their routine was highlighted by the opening quad twist and throw triple Salchow, as well as their level four lifts and spins.

“I was most pleased with landing my triple toe,” commented  Knierim. “It was the first time I competed with it in pairs.”

Early last season, the team won the gold medal at their first ISU Challenger series event at the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and followed up with a bronze at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy. They then placed fourth at both 2014 Skate America and 2014 Trophée Éric Bompard.

After winning the title at the 2015 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the team went on to compete at the 2015 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships (4CC) where they placed fifth.

“Every competition gives the skater experience,” said Scimeca. “You can gain a little more insight about yourself as an athlete. The timing of 4CC is always difficult for American skaters because it is so close to the U.S. Championships. We were tired from all the excitement and joy at nationals, but we dug deep to skate two more solid programs. We were very proud of the improvements we made at 4CC.”

The team’s performances in Seoul, Korea, gave the skaters confidence going into the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships. Their goals at this event were to place in the top sixth, however, they were satisfied with their seventh place finish.

“We left everything on the ice,” said Scimeca. “We didn’t hold back and gave it our all. We can do more and that was our goal leading into the next event at World Team Trophy (WTT). Each year we plan to move up in our world placement.”

“Worlds was a great experience, especially because it was our second one,” added 27-year-old Knierim. “The excitement of going to your first worlds is not there and it was a competition with the top pair teams in the world. We wanted to improve our placements from 2013 Worlds (9th) and we did that. We want to improve on score and placement at every trip we take to worlds until we retire.”

At the 2015 World Team Trophy, the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic champions refreshed their personal best for the free skate, ultimately helping Team USA win the gold.

“Ending the season with our personal best is the way everyone wants to end their season,” said Knierim. “It is a great way to build confidence for the next year. We had a great time at WTT! It was very much worth the extra long season and I would not hesitate to do it again.”

His partner agreed, adding: “It was the greatest feeling! The competition was incredibly joyful. It felt like all of the hard work during the season had finally melted together. It fulfilled me with even more motivation and grit for this current season. I want to keep pushing us past any limits. WTT was in April and the season was very long. We stayed grounded and trained hard. Skating after the worlds was challenging because the highest weighted competition of the year is over. Skating great showed our potential for the future.”

Training has been going well for the team, and the skaters feel their jumps are more consistent and that their presence on the ice overall has improved.

“Last year we were working on triple toes and I got a stress reaction on one of my metatarsals in the beginning of July, which ended that element,” said Knierim. “This year they are improving every day.”

This season, the skaters are performing to an orchestral version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” for the short program, which was choreographed by Julie Marcotte.

“We want to try new music every year up until 2018 and then pick what suits us best,” Knierim explained. “We wanted something fun and edgy. We came across this song listening to the radio one day and really felt like the words moved us. We sent the music to Julie for approval and from there she and Hugo Chouinard did an amazing job putting the music together. The cut of the music is one of a kind!”

The skaters are also pleased with the progress of their new long program which is set to selections from the Elizabeth: The Golden Age soundtrack. They feel that this routine, also choreographed by Marcotte, displays a stronger side to their skating compared to last year’s routine to An American in Paris.

“We are portraying the story of the queen and her lover from Spain,” Scimeca explained. “The majority of the music is bold and there’s only two sections that are slow and last for a short duration of time. There are areas that still need more depth and cleanliness, but it is coming along well. The program is really beautiful and pushes us to skate at the caliber of the top world teams.”

“I love this program,” she summed up. “I feel powerful and queen-ish when I skate to this music. I skate from my heart a little more than normal with this program.”

The team’s goals for this season are to medal at their Grand Prix events—Skate America and NHK Trophy—and defend their national title. They also are aiming to make the top six at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships.

Scimeca and Knierim, who were engaged in April 2014, have set a wedding date for June 26, 2016 in Colorado.