Figure skating is an expensive sport. Chris Knierim, having moved from Ramona, Calif., to Colorado to pursue his ice dreams, needed money to pay for it.
So he got a job at a Sears Auto Center and then Goodyear, first as a tire buster, then changing oil, then aligning suspensions. Eventually he moved to a small shop in Colorado Springs called Ford Street Fleet Services, rebuilding transmissions, even fixing Sea-Doos and motor homes. He went to the rink from 9 a.m. to noon, worked under the hood from 1 to 5, went to class to study diesel mechanics from 6 to 9 p.m.
Axels and axles, Lutzes and lug nuts.
He skated pairs and had three different partners in the sport's junior levels, consistently winning titles with them but needing a better match for his rapidly improving skills. His coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, found him a promising, new partner in 2012 from suburban Chicago named Alexa Scimeca. He picked her up at the airport in a '99 black Camaro that he had souped up from 300 to 800 horsepower. He mentioned that he liked cars as the scenery outside blurred past.
Alexa liked him, and a few months later she decided to visit him at his day job.
"I wore this little mini skirt," Alexa says. "He came out from under a car in his Dickies coveralls -- I thought he looked kinda sexy -- and I was like, 'Here are some doughnuts.' The guys he works with were like, who's that? He said: 'My skating partner.'
"And they were like: 'Oh, now I see why you skate pairs.' "
Here's another reason: Chris and Alexa, now married, are going to the Olympics.
From the beginning
DeeDee Couch was a gymnast first.