GANGNEUNG, South Korea – American pairs skater Chris Knierim moved across the practice rink gracefully on Tuesday at the Gangneung Ice Arena, looking fit for his Olympic debut this coming weekend.
The only thing missing? His wife and skating partner, Alexa Scimeca Knierim.
“She’s home,” he told NBCOlympics.com after the practice session. “She’s just relaxing. … She’s fine. A little jet-lagged. We were both awake enough this morning to do the morning practice, but I just wanted to do some jumps, so I came here.”
Scimeca Knierim suffered from a series of medical complications in 2016, which forced the two-time U.S. champions to miss the U.S. Championships 2017. Scimeca Knierim would eventually have three surgeries before the team returned to competition in PyeongChang at last season’s Four Continents Championships.
Knierim said there was little to worry about over his wife’s absence, however, the skaters having practiced together earlier in the day on the main rink. Their coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, did not attend the practice with Knierim, either.
The duo is the lone pair representing Team USA at the Winter Games and will hit competitive ice for the first time on Friday in PyeongChang for the figure skating team event.
Knierim, who spent plenty of time on the ice alone while his wife was ill, said it still felt strange being out there on his own.
“It’s so weird skating by myself,” he said. “During the program – especially our free skate – I was like, ‘Where am I supposed to look? There’s no girl here.’ It was weird.”
Knierim was also sporting seven stiches just on the top edge of his left eyebrow, saying that he and Scimeca Knierim had fallen on a lift last week in practice in Colorado Springs, Alexa’s left hip coming down and hitting him in the face as they fell.
“We were back skating the next day – no concussion or anything,” Knierim said. “It’s in a nice spot so you can’t really tell.”
He added, laughing: “It was her bony left hip. … She fell on me.”
Pairs is the weakest discipline for the Americans, the Knierims having had their best finish at the 2015 World Championships, where they took seventh place. They will try to help the U.S. earn a medal in the team event in the first week of the Games. Team USA won bronze in 2014.
The Knierims are making their Olympic debut as a pair, coming off of their second national title last month in San Jose, having previously won in 2015.