Who are Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim?
Then known as Alexa Scimeca, she paired up with Chris Knierim (pronounced “kuh-NARE-em”) in April 2012. Together, they won the 2015 U.S. National title. Partners on and off the ice, they married in June 2016 with their coach as their officiant. The couple missed the early part of the 2016-17 season, while Scimeca Knierim had three surgeries to correct a “series of binding internal issues.”
Figure skating beginnings
Scimeca Knierim was born June 10, 1991 in Addison, Illinois and started skating at age 7. She began pairs skating in 2009; previously, she had been primarily a singles skater.
Knierim was born November 5, 1987 in Tucson, Arizona, was raised in San Diego, California, and tried skating for the first time at age 12. For most of his teens, he skated singles, and first tried pairs when he was 18.
They teamed up together in 2012 and became the first U.S. pairs team to qualify for the exclusive Grand Prix Final in eight years when they did so in 2015.
Major competitions/ medals
They won their first U.S. pairs title in 2015 and earned a silver medal at the championships in 2016.
Once they were cleared to return to competition during the 2016-17 season, Scimeca Knierim and Knierim finished sixth at the Four Continents Championships (held at the same venue that will host figure skating events at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics) as well as finishing 10th at the world championships.
Chris describes their breakthrough moment: I think the "breakthrough" moment was when Alexa and I competed at our first US Championships event and placed 2nd in the senior pairs event [in 2013].
Alexa has a different version of events: I had big dreams when I was only 9. I didn't know what it took to become an Olympian, I just knew that that was the stage I wanted to be on. My mom always believed in me. I took each day, one day at a time, and kept dreaming of being an Olympian. There was never one moment, but there were millions of moments when I persevered through hardships and showed myself that I have a heart of an Olympian, and that's all I need.
Scimeca Knierim and Knierim executed a quad twist – a high-flying element where the man throws the woman straight up in the air, parallel to the ice, and she twists four times before he catches her – at the 2015 World Championships, where they finished seventh.
The pair would make their Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
Outside the rink
The pair got married on June 26, 2016 at The Lodge at Flying Horse in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Their longtime coach, Delilah Sappenfield, acted as their officiant while many skaters were in attendance, including Ashley Wagner, Adam Rippon, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Max Aaron and other pairs skaters from their coach’s team, known as the “Sappensquad.” Knierim “proposed” the idea of being their officiant to Sappenfield with a cake that said “will you marry us?” while Sappenfield’s son, Larry, acted as the “flower girl.” As part of the ceremony, the couple attached a blade to a boot before exchanging rings.
What was not known at the time was that Scimeca Knierim had spent the better part of the night having a vomiting episode, one of the many that plagued her during her series of binding internal issues. She would spend 10-12 hours every few days and saw 10 doctors and visited various emergency room visits before being properly diagnosed. She had two surgeries in August, another in November, and returned to competition in February 2017. One of the many challenges she faced at the time was putting the 20 pounds back on her 5-foot-2 frame that she lost and figuring out new ways to train that would not reopen the stiches on her abdomen. But, she says, “When my body was at my weakest, my faith was at its strongest.”
Together, they have two cats (Scarlet and Muffy) and two dogs (Cami and Diesel) at their Colorado Springs home. While Scimeca Knierim enjoys rhinestoning and makeup, Knierim spends his time fixing cars. Their hobbies intersect when they visit their favorite lake, while Scimeca Knierim finds a quiet place to read and snuggle with the dogs and Knierim fishes.