SAN JOSE – Alexa Knierim couldn’t bear to watch.
Knierim and Brandon Frazier arrived at last year’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville favored to defend their pairs title and claim a spot on the Olympic team.
Instead Frazier tested positive for COVID-19 just hours before the short program.
So Frazier, uncertain whether he and Knierim would be able to petition their way onto the Olympic team, watched the competition’s free skate on TV from his hotel bed battling a 102.5 degree temperature and breathing issues.
Breathing, he told his coach Todd Sand, was like swallowing “shards of glass.”
“I probably should have gone to the hospital,” Frazier said.
Knierim opted to watch Netflx with her family, the thought of watching the competition too painful for her.
Knierim and Frazier Saturday night at SAP Center delivered a performance the sport couldn’t take its eyes off, reclaiming their U.S. title with a dominant performance tinged with emotion.
“It’s funny it doesn’t feel like a year ago, but it was a tough week,” Frazier said Saturday night. “Nothing’s guaranteed and going into last year to try and defend a title, Olympic year, you play out your Olympic Trials a million different ways but that wasn’t one of them. So it was a tough, tough week. And I’m just grateful for everything that unfolded from there.”
Since their week from hell in Music City, Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, have placed sixth in the Olympic Games, won the first World Championships gold medal for an American pairs team since 1979, captured a pair of Grand Prix wins, and Saturday further bolstered their bid to repeat as world champions in March.
The Orange County-based team’s score of 227.97 was more than 30 points ahead of the runner-up.
“It means the world for me and I think I can speak for Alexa too, especially after missing last year, to return and to return to the top of the podium, it’s a great achievement,” Frazier said. “But more importantly for us we’ve been reflecting through the season, our personal journeys and our partnership, so being here just so many emotions at the U.S. Championships every time you come. This was a week full of emotions. That was all heart tonight.”
For many, those emotions seemed to signal that this was Knierim and Frazier’s final appearance at the U.S. championships. They admitted considering retiring last summer and have been non-committal about competing past this season.
An hour after their victory they were again asked if this had been their final appearance at American skating’s premier event.
“Not sure,” Frazier said. “There’s no guarantees in life. As the (Olympic) quad ended and you get older, Alexa and I are taking this season one competition at a time and I think for us we’re just, we’re trying to soak it in as if it could be our last.
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“But the future is unknown. We’re not going to worry about that. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it after the season. This week was just appreciation about what this sport has done for us as individuals and sometimes it’s nice to slow down and appreciate the gifts this sport produced for you personally.”
But there was definitely an unmistakable feel of coming full circle this week. Knierim made her senior debut at the U.S. championships in this same building in 2012. Saturday she won her fifth U.S. title, three with her husband Chris and two with Frazier.
“I don’t think the girl I was in 2012 here would ever considered or thought I would have accomplished so much of what I’ve done from my career,” she said. “You think of the big wins, the titles, the championships, that’s what your goal is and what you want. But what I’ve experienced and endured and lived through I would have never imagined what I’ve done. I don’t know if I would have had the strength or courage for the journey I was going to be on.”