World champs Knierim, Frazier dazzle in Day 1 at nationals

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — This time, they kept their embrace on the ice a little longer, kneeling in a final pose after a near-flawless short program.

Heavy favorite and reigning world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier posted a personal best 81.96 on Thursday to lead the first day of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

As the Kniers battled nerves, though you’d never know it, the pair donned glittering silver suits for their much-anticipated nationals return after missing the event a year ago when Frazier contracted COVID-19. On Thursday, they performed an amazing inspirational routine to Journey’s ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’ from Stranger Things.

“I wanted to linger a little longer when the music ended to absorb that moment, because I’ve learned in this long career that the most special times are usually the ones that go by too quickly,” Knierim said. said “And I just want to keep moving forward and be fully immersed and embrace the present moment and be grateful that I get to do this.”

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The tandem’s score was three points off their previous best and also less than three points off the world record of 84.41 set by Sui Wenjing and Han Cong at last year’s Beijing Olympics.

Knierim and Frazier edged out second-place pair Emily Chan and Spencer Howe by more than 15 points after the short program and free skate competition Saturday at the SAP Center.

“When we’re done and you feel like you put on a great performance, that you and your partner gave it everything you had, you just want to make the most of every second because it goes by so fast,” Frazier said. “But it’s those seconds that get you out of bed and keep you coming back.”

He and Knierim never got a chance to defend their title last January at the nationals in Nashville, Tenn., when Frazier’s positive test the night before the competition forced them to withdraw. They then had to apply for a spot on the Beijing Olympic team.

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There, the duo helped the Americans win a silver medal in the team event and finished sixth in pairs. The two won silver in the Grand Prix final last month.

Chan and Howe are expected to be San Jose’s next top pairing behind Knierim and Frazier, who teamed up after Knierim’s husband Chris retired from skating in 2020.

Although Chan fell on side-by-side triple toe loops, the degree of difficulty involved in the technical content of their routine earned her and Howe a higher judges’ score of 66.86, less than a point off their personal best at the international level in Skate. . Canada 2022

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea were third in 65.75 after the short program, their first season competing together – teaming up just four months ago.

Chan was thrilled to see Knierim and Frazier finally skating so beautifully on the big U.S. stage.

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“We were both very happy to see them skating so well. It’s also very inspiring because we understand how much pressure it must be to be defending world champions,” said Chan. “She inspired me a lot and was very supportive of the Grand Prix Final.

In fourth place 63.45 hours. Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez danced elegantly to Maria from West Side Story. They were in 2021. junior bronze medalists and finished sixth at nationals on their pair debut last year.

On Saturday, when they do the free skate, Knierim will again remind them to embrace the moment and be present.

“Being able to skate today was a gift, but it’s also very real and close to our hearts,” she said. “I didn’t want to rush it.”


AP freelance writer Sonja Chen contributed to this report.


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