by Liz Leamy
(20 January 2016) This week, Alexa Scimeca, 24, and Chris Knierim, 28, the reigning pair titlists, are looking to score their second consecutive win at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Championships in St. Paul.
This high-energy team, who has been skating together since 2012 and are coached by Delilah Sappenfield and Larry Ibarra at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, plan to bring their A game to Minnesota this week and seem primed to knock out two action-packed programs chock full of super-challenging technical elements.
“We’re confident and skating well,” said Knierim, who was born in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in San Diego, California. “We’re focused on going in and doing our job and we’re ready to go.”
Some of the elements Scimeca and Knierim are planning for their short program to Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and free skate to the ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ film soundtrack include a signature quad twist, huge throw triple flip, level 4 backward death spirals, lifts and step sequences and side-by-side triple toe-double toes, among other impressive things.
For this team, who was second at the 2013 U.S. Nationals, seventh at the 2015-16 International Skating Union Grand Prix Finals last December and are two-time World Championship U.S. pair contenders, it’s all about doing their job in St. Paul.
“We’re focused on executing what we’re training, rather than winning,” said Scimeca, an Addison, Illinois native.
No doubt, this team, who is also engaged to be married, seems the aptitude and strength, as well as the grit and determination to ultimately achieve even higher world-level status if they continue to progress at such an impressive rate.
Reputed to be one of the few teams to perform a consistent quad twist on the international circuit, Scimeca and Knierim, are also known to be some of the hardest workers around as they spend almost every day training intensively in order to continue to raise both their technical and artistic bar.
“Throughout the season, we focus on ourselves and know what we need to improve on,” said Scimeca. “If we do that, we should accomplish our goals as a team.”
Scimeca and Knierim, are also in an ideal environment to help them reach their full physical potential being based in Colorado Springs, where the altitude is high which in turn, makes for a more challenging, but rewarding training situation. (The U.S. Olympic Training Center is also based in Colorado Springs, largely because of this very reason.)
This team is also strategic.
Prior to the start of each season, they spend hours studying videos of teams around the world to see which elements they might be performing so they have a clear idea for their own competitive plan and also about what they’ll be up against.
“At the beginning of the season, we look at teams who place ahead of us and look to improve upon [our own skating],” said Scimeca.
This season, Scimeca and Knierim have also been working on their side-by-side jump consistency and feel confident going into St. Paul about these elements.
“We’re feeling confident about our triple [Salchows] and [triple toes],” said Scimeca.
Following the Grand Prix Finals in Barcelona last December, the duo also decided to change up their side-by-side triple toe/triple toe to a triple toe/double toe and lengthened the slow part in their ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ free skate to give them some extra breathing room to set it up, execute and finish it without any sort of rushing.
Scimeca and Knierim also said the lengthening of the slow part in their free skate helps make for a greater connectivity in their overall performance.
“It gives us time to connect and highlights [our] connection,” said Scimeca.
At the end of the day, for this team, it’s also about making sure they do everything in their power to stay on the track and build as strong a resume as possible as they head toward the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
“If we defend our title, it would mean we’re on the right track,” said Knierim.