PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- When your wife has had three abdominal surgeries to repair an intestinal disorder that nearly killed her, when a broken leg wiped out your chances at the last Olympics, a training crash a few days before flying to the Winter Games that requires seven stitches to close a bloody forehead gash is merely a bit of minor turbulence.
And making your Olympic debut in figure skating's pressure-packed team event? No problem.
Ramona's Chris Knierim and wife Alexa did what many thought singles skater Nathen Chen would do for them, propping up U.S. hopes for a team medal with a near-flawless short program after Chen had uncharacteristically Zambonied the ice less than an hour earlier.
The Knierims scored 69.75 points for their short program, nearly four above their previous season best. That put Team USA in second place behind Canada after the first of three days in the team competition that includes short and free programs in singles, pairs and dance.
It didn't look that way after Chen, the men's singles favorite, had one of the worst skates of his career -- downgrading the back end of combination jump and falling on a triple Axel. His score of 80.61 was nearly 24 points below his season best.
"'Let the team down' was the first thing I thought," said Chen, who landed five quadruple jumps in his free program at the U.S. Championships last month. "Definitely not a representation of who I am and what I can do ... It wasn't a nerves thing. I just wasn't in the right place mentally going in.
"No one wants to skate like that on Olympic ice."
The buses shuttling athletes and media to venues have TVs on them with live Olympic feeds, and the Knierims -- who were 10th at the 2017 World Championships -- watched Chen's shocking collapse on their way to Gangneung Ice Arena. Which merely cranked up the pressure for their skate, with Team USA in fourth place and at least one team behind it (Russia) having strong entrants in the other disciplines.
They shook their heads.
"Going into nationals, we were a little bit more nervous," Chris said. "You're not officially on the team, regardless of the body of the work you had. It still has to be official. Once that happened, it was a huge relief for me. This is like a cherry on top. We've had a tough couple years, and this is something really special."
"I felt so calm," Alexa said.
They landed all their elements cleanly, including the side-by-side triple Salchows that bedeviled them all season and a crisp throw triple flip that elicited a fist pump from Alexa. The only bobble was literally a bobble, Alexa nearly tumbling onto the boards after all the hard stuff was done.
"We came out of the lift," she said, "and the crowd was crazy and I was at the Olympics and we landed our jumps. And then, oh my gosh, you're still competing. I just tripped."
When the music stopped and the crowd roared, Chris kissed Alexa. The crowd oohed. Said Alexa: "I was like: 'Chris, do it again.' "
Above his left eye are seven stitches from a training spill last week in Colorado Springs. They crashed on a lift, and her hip slammed into his forehead.
"It's the only body part of mine that fell on him," Alexa said. "He was laughing. I was more startled and shocked than he was, when I saw all the blood."
Chris will have the stitches removed here, perhaps before they take the ice again for the free program. In other disciplines where the U.S. team has multiple entrants in Pyeongchang, it can rotate skaters between the short and free programs. The Knierims, as the only pairs team here, must do both and then skate in the regular pairs competition next week.
"Being at the Olympics, we'll skate as many times as we need to," Chris said. "We get this opportunity maybe once in a lifetime."
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