US pairs skater Chris Knierim takes journey from California to Olympics

Mark Zeigler, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Olympics

But at age 11 she broke her wrist and had a cast on her arm. An ice rink was opening inside the University Towne Centre shopping mall. And you could skate with a cast.

"My mom took me," DeeDee says. "That's kind of how my life started."

By sixth grade, she was no longer a full-time student at Standley Middle School in University City (her father owned the Mobil station on the corner of Genesee and Governor), taking correspondence courses and commuting to Los Angeles to train under legendary skating coaches Frank Carroll and John Nicks. Tiffany Chin, the 1985 U.S. ladies champion from San Diego, was her contemporary.

DeeDee gravitated to pairs skating and was practicing a throw double Axel -- among the more difficult moves of that era -- when she crashed and shattered her hip. She was 17. She could rehab and return to the ice. Or she could start a family.

She chose the latter and by 19 had two sons, Tyson and Chris. And a divorce.

Then she met Jeff Knierim, a Hoover High alum and Army officer. They took her two boys, had two children of their own, became a military family that moved every other year and ultimately settled down in Ramona, Calif., once Jeff retired from the service. She got a job teaching figure skating at UTC and started lugging her two oldest sons with her.

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"A lot cheaper than day care, I'm telling you," DeeDee says.

"We had to go to the rink every single day after school," says Tyson, 13 months older than Chris. "We'd sit there and do our homework while our mom coached. Once our homework was done, we had nothing to do and we'd put on skates and just skate until Mom was done. We spent so many hours at UTC.

"Chris really liked jumping and going fast. It gave him maybe not a sense of freedom but a sense of individuality. He could do his own thing."

Tyson, not so much.


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