Six weeks ago, Alexa Scimeca and her partner Chris Knierim weren’t sure if they would even be competing at worlds.
After taking ninth and finishing as the top American pair at the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 15, Scimeca and Knierim are now among the favorites to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Scimeca, who was born in Addison and graduated from Addison Trail High School, and Knierim qualified for worlds after a second-place finish at the 2013 U.S. Championships. The top two U.S. pairs qualify for worlds, but it wasn’t that simple this time.
The 2012 national champions, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, didn’t compete at nationals this year because Coughlin tore the labrum in his left hip. They successfully petitioned to the U.S. Figure Skating Association to compete in worlds.
That made Scimeca and Knierim the U.S. alternates, but they were required to continue training. To make matters more awkward, both pairs train in Colorado Springs under coach Delilah Sappenfield. That helped Scimeca keep track of how Coughlin’s injury was progressing.
Less than a month before worlds, it was announced that Coughlin’s injury recovery wasn’t going well enough and they weren’t going to compete at worlds. That opened the door for Scimeca and Knierim.
“I have mixed emotions about it because we did earn our spot to get there by getting second at nationals,” Scimeca said. “I want everybody to do well so I felt sad that John and Caydee couldn’t go, but I was also happy because we did earn our spot and we did work hard to make it there.”
At worlds in London, Ontario, Scimeca and Knierim put up season best scores to finish ninth and surpass this year’s national champions, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.
“To be there for the first time was already kind of a dream come true,” Scimeca said. “To skate your best there was just a cherry on top of the ice cream for us.”
More impressively, Scimeca has only partnered with Knierim for the last 11 months. Scimeca, who began skating at the Addison Ice Arena, was looking for a new partner a year ago and wasn’t sure how it would work out. Her top priority was to begin training under Sappenfield in Colorado Springs.
“We were just going to go from there and hopefully find a partner even if he had to be from another country because U.S. pair boys are rare,” Scimeca said.
Knierim, a 25-year-old from Arizona, had previously contacted Scimeca about partnering up, but she wasn’t available. This time around they made the connection and it quickly paid off.
With the Olympics less than a year away the pair is hoping a second year together will improve on already impressive results.
“Our goal this season is to improve upon every competition,” Scimeca said. “Our main focus this year is to make the Olympic team. I think it’s possible.”