Cinderellas Scimeca, Knierim fit into new slippers

Reigning U.S. pairs silver medalists will skate to selections from Ever After, Yentl

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim finished ninth at the 2013 World Championships.
Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim finished ninth at the 2013 World Championships. (Getty Images)


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By Sarah S. Brannen, special to
(04/29/2013) - Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim's first season together exceeded all their expectations. As they begin their second year together, they plan to build on their success and strengthen any weaknesses, with the goal of making the Olympic team and competing in Sochi.

Scimeca and Knierim were thrilled to finish second at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha, Neb. Finishing ninth at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, was beyond their dreams.

"We were both just blown away by getting in the top 10," Scimeca said. "The best thing about this 2013 season was that we were able to go into everything without expectations, because every competition we did was our first one. It was our first nationals, first worlds, whatever. I think that helped a lot."

After the world championships, the pairs skaters, who are dating, took a couple of weeks off to visit family in California and Illinois. They got back to work in early April and started work on their new season by finalizing their plans for new programs.

Igor Shpilband has choreographed their new free skate, to music from the movie Ever After. The short program, to "Papa, Can You Hear Me," from Yentl, is being choreographed by Catarina Lindgren.

"It was awesome," Knierim said of working with Shpilband. "He had a lot of good ideas, and we're both really happy with the program."

"He's very patient with students and he made it comfortable for us," Scimeca added. "He had a storyline going from the beginning."

The free skate will interpret the movie, which stars Drew Barrymore in a lively Renaissance version of the Cinderella fairy tale. Scimeca will portray Cinderella after she has become a princess, with Knierim as her Prince Charming. Scimeca says the cut of the music is "inspirational."

The short program is a work in progress at the moment.

"We don't have the full storyline, but the idea is to have a lot of passion," Scimeca said. "I'm a little lost, and Chris is taking care of me and trying to be the leader and console me."

The team is planning to include a new lift in its short program, and is training side-by-side triple toe loops in the free. Coach Dalilah Sappenfield hasn't made a final decision about including the toe loops when the pair competes.

"If she feels that it's the smart decision, she'll let us try it," Scimeca said. "So, that's our goal; we want to get those toes in."

Apart from the technical improvements, Scimeca and Knierim are focusing on improving their components this summer. To that end, they have been working with coach (and columnist) Drew Meekins on movement, to help them get the most out of the choreography.

"We are working with Drew on the ice ... and we take a few lessons from him in the dance studio, learning how to move our bodies in different ways," Scimeca said.

"I'm really excited to be working with Alexa and Chris," Meekins said. "They have a wonderfully 'classic pair' feel. We are working to give the movement a more mature and diverse look, increasing the range of motion in their arms and cores, and encouraging movement from their centers."

Scimeca and Knierim are also considering taking some ballroom or ballet classes this summer.

"We have to do what we didn't do last year, because last year we were just trying to get together as a team and just finish the year," Scimeca said.

"Our technical mark is strong; it's in the 60s, which is where a lot of the other teams are," Knierim said. "But our component mark is in the 50s, so we really need to get them even."

"There's really no reason why we should be lacking in it," Scimeca added. "It's a huge goal of ours to be up there and have a balanced mark in the technical and the component."

The two of them have also increased their off-ice workouts with coach Larry Ibarra to build their stamina and strength. Ibarra is a tough taskmaster, and Scimeca said she has to dig deep to get through the sessions.

"We were working out. I was, like, dying, and I was going, '2014! 2014!'" she said. "With the new program, we need stamina and to be extra strong because it's going to be harder than last season, with the transitions."

"We have a lot more transitions," Knierim added. "We adjusted a few things to make sure it works with our elements. We have a lot more than we had last year."

As well as training, the two will be skating in a show in Colorado Springs, Colo., next week. They said they might compete their short program at the Broadmoor Open at the end of June, and they are planning to compete at Skate Detroit.