Q&A with Chris Knierim
Chris Knierim is one half of the U.S. pair team Alexa and Chris Knierim, the 2015 national champions. The married couple is looking to make their Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
Tell us about your family and how you grew up.
My parents are Deedee and Jeff Knierim. I have three siblings: Tyson, Kara and Josh. My dad was in the military for a few years, the Army. It impacted my journey because we moved so often. Making new friends and getting used to new schools was a normal thing.
And of course, my wife, Alexa – my pairs skating partner. We have four pets: two cats and two dogs.
Have you ever had a serious injury? How did you come back from that?
I broke my leg the season of the 2014 Olympic Games. I came back onto the ice four weeks after to rush to get back to competing during the season. Looking back it was a bad idea to rush back because it hindered training at 100 percent for a few months.
Physically and mentally it was a huge struggle. It was on the Olympic season so it was very stressful. I needed the support of my coaching staff and partner to get through it.
What’s your earliest memory of figure skating?
My earliest memory of skating probably came from watching videos of my mom skating when she was younger. I don't think I was thinking about dedicating my life to the sport when I started. After years and years of skating through middle school and high school and missing those after-school activities, I could never see myself doing anything else. I don't have any regrets.
What’s your earliest memory of watching the Olympics? Did you think that one day it could be you?
Probably watching the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. I imagined what it would be like to be in that position; I think most kids in any Olympic sport think about that when they watch the Olympics.
What’s something cool and intense about figure skating that people don’t get to see?
Something that people don't normally see in the sport is how much the skaters have fun and fool around during the Gala practices. The hardest part of our sport is only having maybe eight and a half minutes total to show your hard work – working hours and hours a day, thousands of hours a year only to show it all in such a short time.
What’s a misconception about figure skating that you want to correct?
A common misconception about our sport is that all male figure skaters are all gay.
What is your relationship like with your coach?
Our coach is Dalilah Sappenfield. I have been working with her for 12 years now. Our relationship is very open and honest, probably why we have been able to work together for such a long time. She’s my greatest influence in this sport. She works for her students because she loves it and not for the money. She’s shown me how to be a great skater and a great coach.
How close are you to the other pairs teams that you train with?
I probably socialize most with the other pair teams that skate at the Broadmoor World Arena. We have a Facebook chat together and we call ourselves the Sappensquad using Dalilah's last name (Sappenfield).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Do your job.
What’s your biggest fear when you’re on the ice?
My biggest fear when competing is letting my partner and wife down.
Who was most influential in helping you achieve your figure skating dreams?
It is so hard to pick one person, it takes more than just one to help an Olympic dream become reality. My parents were at the start of the dream, and now Dalilah and my wife Alexa help me keep trying to achieve the dream. In the beginning, my parents helped my dream financially as well as waking up early and driving me to the rink every day. It takes a village to get to the Olympics; it’s never one person.
How do you unwind after a competition?
Usually, I work on a car to unwind after a competition.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an athlete?
I would probably be a mechanic if I was not a figure skater. It seems like I collect car parts these days.
What are your favorite television shows?
Top Gear, Last Man on Earth, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Lost