Ice Network

Second City slices: Scimeca, Knierim forgo quad

American duo focusing on improving unison, performance; Pairs crash
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Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim have a jaw-dropping triple twist, but they're not yet willing to make it a quad. -Getty Images

"Quads" -- how many, what kind and when -- are a staple of the men's event. Now, the four-revolution craze is migrating: When the pairs take the ice Sunday for their free skate at 2014 Skate America, two teams will likely include quadruple elements in their programs.

Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov plan a quadruple throw Salchow, while Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang of China may include a quad twist. Both teams have hit the moves in their practices here in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and Kavaguti and Smirnov landed the throw at the Nebelhorn Trophy last month.

With one of the largest triple twists in the world, Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim would seem good candidates to go the quad route. But the skaters are not ready to add that extra revolution -- at least not yet.

"We've played around with the quad twist for a little while off the ice, but if you look at the Olympic champions (Tatiana Volosozhar and Max Trankov of Russia), they don't have a quad," Knierim, 26, said. "What they have are great skating skills."

"It would be great, and I don't see us not being able to do a quad twist, but we have a lot of other needs first," Scimeca, 23, said.

The Colorado-based skaters teamed up in April 2012, won the 2013 U.S. silver medal and placed ninth at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships. But in July 2013, Knierim broke his fibula during a practice session and underwent complicated surgery that placed a metal plate and nine screws in his ankle. The pair placed fourth at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Now, they're back on track, and with their coaches, Dalilah Sappenfield and Larry Ibarra, they're working to add finesse and polish to their performances.

"They certainly have the height to do a quad twist, but right now we have other things to focus on," Sappenfield said.

"Our plan for this four-year (Olympic) cycle is to correct the skating skills and get us to be competitive with the rest of the world," she continued. "We also made corrections in their throw flip, and changes in their jump patterns, so those are the technical things we are fine-tuning."

To target specific areas of improvement, the skaters -- who announced their engagement in April -- studied video of their performances at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and Nebelhorn Trophy, where they won gold and bronze, respectively. They loved their free skate, choreographed by Julie Marcotte to Gershwin selections from An American in Paris, and wanted to make it even stronger.

"When we got back from Oberstdorf, Julie came to [Colorado Springs] and made a few changes," Knierim said. "She spent three or four days with us, and we really like the new choreography."

"We went back to see where we needed a little extra, where we could show more edge quality and add more performance," Scimeca said.

Sappenfield added that while improved unison and polish might not have the excitement factor of a big quad move, it will pay larger dividends in the long run.

"The biggest focus for us this year has been finding their unison and depth of edge," she said. "We want to grow their skating skills so they're not just skating on flats and running to the next thing. They really want to have the presence of a top-tier team."

U.S. pairs brush off collision

On Friday, Scimeca and Knierim, along with Haven Denney and Brandon Denney, executed a quad of a different kind when the two teams had a Level 4 collision during their practice session that left all four sprawled on top of each other on the ice.

Amazingly, they all made a quick recovery and continued with practice.

"Thankfully, we are all OK, but is there video of that quad collision?" Scimeca and Knierim joked on their twitter account @Scimeca_Knierim.

Denney and Frazier arrived at Skate America with primary coach John Zimmerman as well as Ingo Steuer, who recently joined their coaching team.

The 2013 world junior champions competed at two Challenger Series events this fall, first at the Lombardia Trophy and then at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic in Barrie, Ontario. They won gold and silver, respectively, and their score jumped 10 points from the first to the second event.

"We saw where our programs stood versus the competition, what we have going for us and what we don't have going for us," Frazier said. "The first senior B really showed us what we're getting killed on and what we have to pull together."

After some tweaking, things went far better in Barrie.

"We focused our attention on the spins and made some changes to the middle section of the long program (set to music from The Lion King)," Zimmerman said. "We also made some changes in how we approach the competition mentally.

"This competition is a good test of those changes, and how we will move forward going into our next Grand Prix (Rostelecom Cup) and nationals."