Married American pair skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, who helped lift Team USA to a bronze medal in the figure skating team event earlier this week, turned in a disappointing final program on Thursday (Wednesday night stateside) — but they had other things on their mind.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Alexa grew visibly emotional as she discussed the mass shooting at a Florida high school on Wednesday afternoon that killed 17, news of which was breaking in the hours before she and Chris took the ice for their free skate in the pairs’ competition.
The Knierims, two-time U.S. champions in pair skating, learned of the carnage from a CNN report playing in the warmup room, they said.
“We’re still privileged and lucky to be doing what we’re doing and it’s so sad that 17 people died from the United States,” Alexa, 26, told the press after skating, her voice choking with tears.
“I told Chris today that the world is so much bigger than us,” she said, “and I’m disappointed at the way we performed today, but I mean there are so many people hurting at home getting the news that their children have died.”
While Alexa said she “wasn’t focused” on the shooting as she skated — “I was doing my job” — she felt their routine nonetheless had a special significance.
“I think I kind of put pressure on myself today, because I wanted to honor those who are lost and skate really well for them and kind of have somewhat of a happy moment for our country,” she said, “and unfortunately [there were] too many mistakes today. It was one of our lowest scores. And I think I’m maybe just being too tough on myself, but [I] wanted to lift the spirit of those who are probably mourning right now.”
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Despite being half a world away, Alexa said her and Chris’ hearts “are with” the victims and community in Florida devastated by the shooting, which is suspected of being carried out by a 19-year-old former student at the school.
“Even though we are here in Pyeongchang … we’re hurting for them,” she said.
In their first Olympics, the Knierims delivered a season-best short program during their part of the team event, helping keep the U.S.’s medal chances alive following a fall in the short program from men’s national champion Nathan Chen.
They could not repeat such a performance in their own event and finished second to last with a total score of 185.82. Germany’s Bruno Massot and Aljona Savchenko took gold.
Next, Alexa and Chris will back to train for the world championships in March.
“Now that’s it done and it’s been an emotional week, it’s been hard,” Alexa said. “And then to kind of finish with a more-than-disappointing skate with a heavy heart for those who are lost today, I’m just overwhelmed.”
The Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.