by Liz Leamy
(16 January 2021) Alexa Scimeca-Knierim & Brandon Frazier, the dazzling duo who joined forces last spring triumphed in the pair competition Saturday night, claiming their first-ever U.S. title with a 228.10 total, putting them more than 23 points ahead of the formidable nine-entry field.
This newly crowned U.S. championship team, who train in Irvine, California with Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, the three-time World medalists and three-time U.S. champions, hit all of their elements in world-class fashion in their dramatic interpretation of ‘Fall on Me’ by Andrea Bocelli and Matteo Bocelli, choreographed by Renee Roca, the former U.S. World ice dancer.
This duo opened their program up with a soaring horizontal split triple twist then followed it up with triple toe-double toe loops, triple Salchows, a gorgeous throw triple loop, huge throw triple Lutz, and an array of stunning lifts, among other things.
For Scimeca-Knierim & Frazier, this gold medal-result was both thrilling and emotional for them.
“It’s amazing what a year can do with what everyone has gone through,” said Frazier. “You realize all moments are amazing, really and this result is showing us to keep trying.”
“This was extra special because it wasn’t something we expected when we first teamed up,” said Scimeca-Knierim. “We worked very hard and we’re excited for our future.”
According to their coaches, Scimeca-Knierim & Frazier always strive to hit a golden mark at every practice and is something they usually achieve.
“What you saw here is how they train at home and I think they’ll continue to develop as a team,” said Meno, adding that the goal for herself and Sand is to get the American teams back on the podium at the World Championships and Olympics.
Scimeca-Knierim & Frazier said they are totally on board with that goal.
“We’re very pleased to win but we want to be among the best in the world,” said Scimeca-Knierim. “We have so much [more] work to do and we have a ways to go.”
Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson, the 2020 U.S. silver medalists who, like the victors, train in Irvine with Meno and Sand, secured the silver medal with their dynamic program to Queen’s ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ by the Tenors and Lindsay Stirling for which they scored a 205.29 total.
This team, known for their incredible speed, extraordinary lifts and big throw triples, reeled off a gigantic throw triple Salchow, throw triple Lutz and soaring split triple twist, among other things that helped earn them the third-highest score of the free skate and reclaim the U.S. National silver medal.
For Calalang & Johnson, it’s all about staying focused on the big picture.
“I think our program showed all the hard work we put in this year in terms of our skating and stamina,” said Johnson. “We saw a lot of improvement and we’re looking forward to building upon that.”
Ashley Cain-Gribble & Timothy LeDuc, the 2019 U.S. Champions and 2020 and 2017 U.S. bronze medalists, threw down the proverbial hammer with their electric free skate to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 2,’ earning them the second-best score in this segment of competition and designating them the bronze medal winners overall.
Right at the outset, it was clear this high-octane duo, who were second in the short program, were on a mission.
The two executed such elements as a lightning-quick split triple twist, gorgeous throw triple Lutz, solid triple side-by-side triple Salchows-double toes-double loops and several high-speed, beautifully extended lifts, among other things.
For this team, this competition was a success on all fronts.
“For us, it felt like a huge win,” said Cain-Gribble. “We gave it everything we had and chose not to get in our way and skate freely.”
According to Cain-Gribble & LeDuc, it’s all about getting stronger and better every day.
“We’ve improved in so many ways and today we showed what we’re capable of,” said Cain-Gribble. “So for us, this is a win.”
LeDuc expressed their gratitude at having the opportunity to be able to compete at this event.
“I think there’s an overwhelming sense of gratefulness that we’re here,” said LeDuc. “We all get to grow as teammates with everything that’s going on and we’re so grateful to U.S. Figure Skating for making this competition happen.”
Audrey Liu & Misha Mitrofanov, third in the short, skated an entertaining program to a Charlie Chaplin medley for which they earned a 116.65 for a 177.06 total that put them fourth overall.
The duo, who placed sixth at the 2020 U.S. Championships, executed a throw triple loop, side-by-side triple Salchows and triple toe loops, among numerous other memorable elements.