World champs Knierim, Frazier dazzle in Day 1 at nationals

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — They kept their ice necks a little longer this time, kneeling in a closing pose after a near-flawless short program.

Heavy favorites and reigning world champions Alexa Kinnear and Brandon Frazier scored personal bests of 81.96 to take a commanding lead on the first day of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday.

With Knierim battling his nerves, though you’d never know it, the pair took the ice in glittering silver outfits to their much-anticipated nationals return after missing the event a year ago when Frazier contracted COVID. Tested positive for -19. On Thursday, they provided a surprise routine on “distinct ways (other than worlds)” of travel from Stranger Things.

“I wanted to take a little more time when the music ended to absorb the moment because I’ve learned over the course of this long career that the most special moments I have are the ones that usually go by so quickly. ” said Kinneram. “And I just want to go ahead and be fully immersed, and embrace the present moment, and just be grateful that I’m able to do this.”

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The tandem’s score was three points higher than their previous best and three points shy of the world record of 84.41 set by Sui Wenjing and Han Kong at the Beijing Olympics last year.

Knierim and Frazier led second-place pair Emily Chan and Spencer Howe by more than 15 points after the short program with the free skate competition Saturday at the SAP Center.

“Once we’re done, and you feel like you gave a great performance that both you and your partner shared, that you gave everything you had, you just take every second. want because they go by fast,” Frazier said. “But those seconds are exactly what get you out of bed and keep coming back.”

After Frazier tested positive the night before the competition, he and Kinnerum missed out on defending their titles at nationals in Nashville, Tennessee, last January. He then had to apply for a spot on the Olympic team for Beijing.

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There, the pair helped the Americans to a silver medal in the team event and finished sixth in pairs. Both of them also won a silver medal in the Grand Prix Final last month.

Chan and Howe are expected to be the next best duo in San Jose behind Kinnear and Frazier, who partnered after Kinnear’s husband Chris retires from skating in 2020.

While Chan fell on her side-by-side triple tulips, the degree of difficulty in the technical content of her routine earned her and Howe a high score of 66.86 from the judges – less than their international personal best in the skate. 2022.

Allicom and Danny O’Shea were third with 65.75 in the short program after competing together in their first season — teaming up just four months ago.

It was great to see Chan Kinnerum and Frazier skate back to the big American stage so gracefully.

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“It’s great to see both of us skate so well. It’s also very inspiring, because we understand how much pressure it must be to be a world champion,” Chen said. “He’s a huge inspiration for me. has been and is getting a lot of support in the Grand Prix Final.”

In fourth place at 63.45, Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez performed a beautiful skate to “Maria” from West Side Story. They were 2021 junior bronze medalists and finished sixth at nationals last year in their senior debut as a pair.

When they do their free skate on Saturday, Knierim will again remind herself to embrace the moment and be there.

“Being able to skate today was a gift, but it’s also very true and close to our hearts,” he said. “I didn’t want to rush it.”


AP freelance writer Sonja Chen contributed to this report.


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