Home Archive Photos Slideshows Database


Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim - Pair Looks to the Future

 by Alexandra Stevenson

(24 December 2013)

Making a big splash in Worlds last season after only a brief time together, and looking to the future, are Alexa Scimeca, 22, 5’1”, born in Glendale, Il., & Chris Knierim, 26, 6’2”, born in Tucson, AZ. Their last names are pronounced ‘She-meh-kay’ and his with the ‘K’. They are the U.S. Pairs Championship silver medalists, who train in Colorado Springs with Dalilah Sappenfield & Laureano Ibarra.

This is his fifth partner and her second. She only started pairs in 2010, and teamed up with Knierim in April of 2012. As reserves, they placed ninth in March in their first world championship in London, Ontario (in which they replaced Caydee Denney & John Coughlin, after Coughlin injured a hip.) Scimeca and Knierim made a reasonable debut, placing ninth overall up from 12th in the Short Program in a field of 18. That was despite Scimeca having a foot injury of her own which took them out of the Four Continents Championships. She was forced to take time off to let it heal.

Fortunately, she was well enough to compete in London, Ontario. She admitted, “We’re really fortunate we got the opportunity to come here. If John (Coughlin) had not been injured, we’d be cheering for them, and now they are doing the same for us. We’re all a team there at the rink (in Colorado Springs) so we don’t want anyone to do worse. We came here and we put out two good performances like we wanted to do. We represented United States figure skating pretty well.”

Scimeca revealed their training is very structured. “Dalilah keeps track daily of our program run-throughs so we’re able to see if we miss something or not. We try to make everything consistent with our levels.”

She explains, “Dalilah’s pupils are known for their great triple twists. She had a circus background and she understands what is physically involved. I think I’m getting more and more experience and I’m learning to learn from my experiences. I don’t get upset if something goes wrong in the warm ups. It doesn’t bother me because it’s something that I do. I get my legs under me. It’s not surprising to Chris and me because in past competitions, I’ve messed up everything on the warm up. It didn’t frighten me at all. Dalilah is the best match for me. She understands my personality and how to coach me. She’s trained Chris for seven years. Together we make a great team.

“This season has been pretty rough. We’ve had disappointments in all three internationals, but this is the way you learn.” Early in life Scimera had battled an illness that almost left her deaf.

In their short career together, they have won gold in the Cup of Nice, bronze in Bratislava, and competed in three Grand Prix events, in Japan, China and in Moscow. And they’ve both gone through injuries. There was her ankle injury which kept them out of the Four Continents championship, and his fairly recent ankle injury.

He explained, “With my left broken ankle (the one used to pick in jumps), I was pretty upset in my head. I thought our season would be over, but they assured me that wasn’t the case and I was back after four weeks. There’s nothing I can’t do, even when it’s sore you just deal with it. We were hoping to do side-by-side triple toes but because of that we don’t. We’ve substituted triple Salchows. But taking off on the Axel is a problem for me.”

They perform their SP to the poignant, “Papa Can You Hear Me?” composed by Michel Legrand for the movie, “Yentl” choreographed by Catarina Lindgren. Their Free is to “Ever After” the soundtrack by George Fenton, choreographed by Igor Shpilband.

She left training in Connecticut for personal reasons, explaining, “When you have a gut feeling it is sometimes hard to ignore. I had a gut instinct that I didn't belong in Connectiucut and that there was something greater out there for me. I called Dalilah and planned to move out to Colorado sometime in April. I had a possible tryout planned with a Polish boy, but that was it. All I knew was that I wanted Dalilah to be my coach.

“I grew up with a Russian style of teaching during my singles career. When I moved to Connecticut to train with Vadim Naumov, who was Russian, my technique was VERY different than Dalilah's. The hardest element I had to adjust to was the twist. It almost felt like a different element with the changes she made. I think our general skating meshed quickly. I also think that Chris has always had a solid lifting technique, so it was quite easy for him to adapt to me.

“For us the last season was beyond our wildest dreams. You never know how quickly a team will click or how long it could take. We both shared the same goals and dreams so the desire and discipline was present everyday on the ice. We did NOT think we would be as successful as we were in our first season together, so we enjoyed the process.

“After placing second at Nationals we were thrilled to go to Worlds because we earned it. I was extremely surprised by the win. I think that's when I opened my eyes to the possibilities. I hadn't won anything since my singles career, so that moment was really up-lifting for myself. We were informed that because of our win at Coupe de Nice we were first on the alternate list for the GP series, but we did not think anyone would withdraw from the GP. We were at Midwestern Sectionals when we got the news so we were celebrating before our long program!”

Last season, between NHK and Nationals, they changed the free skate to "Life is Beautiful" from "Last of the Mohicans", which they had chosen largely because they both have a native Cherokee American Indian history in their backgrounds. She explained, “We really grew as a team and the "Mohicans" was something we put together without knowing what suited us best. We felt like we outgrew the program rather fast and no longer enjoyed skating to it. We felt that if we wanted to compete with the higher level teams, we needed to step it up. We chose the music before NHK and were just waiting to get back and start over.

The new program came together quickly and was easier to skate through compared to the Mohicans. We were also very excited about the program and it was very motivating for us. Dalilah choreographed it and she knew what would be most ideal for patterns and entrances. If anything, there was more ease in the "Life is Beautiful" program. I decided to withdraw when I couldn't stand on my foot any longer. Jumps and throws were out of the question. The morning I withdrew from the event I wasn't able to spin on my foot without a ton of pain. I thought the lifts would be pain free, but the takeoffs were enough to cause me to cry a bit. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I was nervous that something was seriously wrong.

“I've always pushed through pain, but I just wasn't strong enough this time. I was sad because I felt like I'd let down Chris, as well as all of the USA. I wasn't thinking about Worlds at that point because I believe in fate and I knew if it was meant to be it would happen. Therapy for my foot took a lot of time and patience. I was fortunate to see Melinda Couch in Colorado before Worlds and have her be the therapist traveling with us. She is the reason I could compete at Worlds and I am forever grateful for that. I still had pain during worlds but it was manageable.”

In Worlds, they beat the Italians, Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek, who had been third in the European Championships. “We earned our personal best and we were blown away by the scores! We always aim for the best, as most do, but we didn't think we would claim our personal best at worlds. It was a gratifying experience!”

Her partner remembers the intensity of that performance in Canada. “I remember saying that I felt like the program was in slow motion. Every little detail I noticed and I (later) had asked her if it looked like we were in slow motion! Haha!

“We also have a special place in our hearts for Coupe de Nice because it was our first big moment (beating the Russians, Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov of Russia) but Worlds is definitely our favorite. Worlds is a dream come true and competing there will never get old.

“We think our new programs will sit higher than last year's programs. We want to make the Olympic team and feel that it is tangible. However, a lot of hard work had to be put into this season. We needed to make great strides in our skating to be at the level of our world competitors. We are working on staying in the moment. We’ve been focusing in one day at a time.

“Dalilah is down to earth and realistic about our goals and motives. She tells us how it is and doesn't sugarcoat things. She is very easy to talk to and we both trust her very much. Her experience and past with other pair teams is proof that she knows what she's doing. We both believe she is the best coach for us.

“We picked these programs to help our skating grow, and they are far and beyond last year's. The programs show off our improvements in expression and body movements. We will be telling a story in each program and competition we do this season. It was a big shock getting the score we did, even though we were hoping to get a higher score than NHK because we both thought this program was a lot better.

“We had a rough start to this season, but every competition we did, we got better.

“I mean, considering who we beat there, titles or whatever they were coming into Worlds with, meant nothing, you know, not everyone is going to skate their best at every competition and that's what makes it a competition. Dalilah has known me since the beginning of my pairs career and knows how to get me to be the best I can be.

“With her former partner, Alexa did not do a really high twist. This is a move which depends a lot on technique. With any sized girl, as long as you can get the momentum, you can get a good result. I don’t think I’m that huge. I don’t think I’m stronger than her former partner, but with Dalilah’s help we do have a very superior twist. Our strength is the technical aspect of skating as we showed last season. Both of us are strong skaters and our biggest weakness is the component side of skating which we are nipping in the butt early this season to strengthen it. Our idols are Gordeeva & Grinkov.

“I was skating with my former partner Andrea with Dalilah but Andrea wanted to move and train in California. I did not want to leave the World Arena and my coaches, my family, school, and my job so I made the choice to stay back. I had already heard Alexa was coming out to Colorado Springs to have some tryouts and skate here with Dalilah.

“Dalilah told me to trust her and that she would not point me in the wrong direction. Alexa came earlier than planned and we scheduled the tryout. We decided to skate together because it felt right. Dalilah pointed out our long lines and I was intrigued with the immediate chemistry. Last season our progress went past anything we could have imagined!

“We were very pleased to have won (the Cup of Nice). Going into it as our first international competition together, we were hoping to just skate well not knowing how the international scene would take to us. Especially being our first season and neither of us ever having competed in a Grand Prix or Worlds. The season was a blessing and we are both very grateful. We earned our spot at worlds.

This season we hope we won't have to hear that we made Worlds because another team withdrew. Since both of us came from different coaches, initially there was a bit of difficulty with changing technique. Normally when two skaters each come from different camps you adjust. You kind of take pieces of both and mesh them together and it takes some time. We used more of her throw technique and my lift and twist.

“Meshing did not initially take long. We had all our elements in a couple months and were off competing. We were very pleased to have won our first international competition together (in Nice). We were hoping to just skate well not knowing how the international scene would take to us. We wanted one (Grand Prix for the 2012-2013 season) from the beginning of the season and, through withdrawals, we got one. So it all worked out and we took the opportunity and ran with it. Our goals were to skate well and represent the USA as best we could.

“For Worlds (2013) we wanted to just go out and skate our programs. We did not put any expectations on having to place in the top 10. The main focus was just to put it all out there and skate our best and we did that so it was a success no matter the placement. After we had finished and got the scores we did, I was very happy to be in the top 9.

“Element-wise we had our set levels on everything and we obviously wanted to get the levels we were going for and we did, which was the first time all year that happened. Worlds was the best moment; I mean finishing your season on that high of a note is amazing. It gives you confidence for the season to come.

“I think Nationals is going to be more than a three-team race. Everyone brings their best and no one is guaranteed anything. You can be a two time national champion coming into Nationals and not make it so it’s anyone's to take.

“The season opened early and we have worked hard to reach our goals. Everyone who qualifies for Nationals in senior wants to make the Olympic team and we are no different. At the GP's that we had this season, our focus this year was less on elements and more on our component marks.

“For relaxation, Alexa and I love watching TV shows on Netflix. We watch them during our breaks and on a Saturday night we love to stay in and watch shows. And we go fishing.”

Scimeca said they both find fishing relaxing. “Particularly on a Sunday in the summer, when there’s not much to do – just enjoy the scenery, the fresh air, put the worms on the hooks, and wait for the rainbow trout and catfish to bite.”

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Return to title page