Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place, suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace, suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste, it all revolves around you ... Sing out this song I'll be there by your side, storm clouds may gather, and stars may collide, but I love you until the end of time. - "Come What May''
They'll always have Pairs.
And Colorado Springs, Greensboro, San Jose and Pyeongchang. And each other.
When Alexa Paige Scimeca and Christopher Knierim met for the first time, at Colorado Springs Airport, six years ago, the young pair of ice skaters felt an instant connection, but they would have no perception of what may come.
"He was cute,'' Alexa says.
"She was outgoing,'' Chris says.
"We hit it off,'' both say.
"It was the beginning of our journey,'' she says.
"And look where it's taken us,'' he says.
In 25 days, the effervescent, beautiful Alexa and the shy, handsome Chris Knierim, partners on the ice and in life, will march in the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics after, earlier Feb. 9, beginning competition as the United States' only pairs figure skating representative. The 2018 Games in South Korea, will be the first for Alexa, 26, and Chris, the oldest member of the skating team at 30.
The Incredible Journey continues for the Knierims, who live permanently, and train, in the Springs.
"Our journey has been the wildest roller-coaster ride ever,'' Alexa said during my 90-minute conversation with the Knierims before their usual practice session Saturday morning at the Olympic Training Center rink. "When you start up the hill, you don't know where you going, and there's great twists and the scariest turns, and you're up and down, and around, and then you experience the adrenaline rush toward the finish, and you want to immediately get back on it again.''
Chris was a military brat, son of a U.S. Army specialist who served in the Gulf War preparing and repairing vehicles. The family lived in Texas, California, Arizona and Germany before settling outside San Diego when Jeff Knierim retired after being exposed to sarin gas in the Middle East.
Deedee Knierim became a youth figure-skating coach when her husband was away, and "she dragged me to the rink every day, so I sort of was forced into skating in middle school,'' Chris says. "I didn't ever tell the other boys because of, well, the glitz and glamor. We moved to Colorado Springs when I was a teenager, and I got another coach because I was tired of my mom giving me orders at practice, then giving me more orders when we got home.''
He was serious about figure skating and auto mechanics. "I had to get a part-time job, and my friend and I became tire busters at Sears. My dad was into cars, and he started teaching me everything about them.''
His new coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, persuaded Chris to gravitate to pairs, and he and his partner won a junior silver medal at the nationals in 2009. "I was the only guy who showed up for practice with black hands from getting oil all over them.''
Glitz, glamor and grease.
He had four pairs partners until the last breakup in 2012.
Alexa was raised by parents Tom and Tina Scimeca in the Chicago suburb of Addison, and "we've had the same house since I was born.'' She wasn't pushed into ice skating at 8, but pulled her mom and dad along. She started competing locally, then nationally and internationally with a partner in 2011-2012 before they split.
"Alexa and I were in the same events, but we never talked. My mom actually wrote her an email (in 2010) about us getting together on the ice, but I don't think she even replied,'' Chris said.
"My mistake,'' Alexa said and chuckled.
But, when the two were without partners, coach Sappenfield called Alexa, who was intending to move to Colorado to practice, in 2012 and "said get to the Springs now. She wanted me to try out with Chris.''
Alexa was somewhat shocked when greeted at the airport by Chris in his restored 1999 Chevrolet Camaro.
It was love at first sighting. Not the car and the lady. He would sell the car, but, years later, the couple purchased another just like the old Camaro.
They skated onto the rink a couple of days later, and it was love at first ice.
"It was so natural for us. We clicked, and knew we were meant to be together,'' he says.
"I didn't much care for the dirt under his fingers until I found out he was a car repair geek,'' she says.
Only eight months later, Alexa and Chris won the Couple di Nice (France) and got fourth in the NHK Trophy (Japan). In the next 12 months they took silver at the U.S. Championships and earned spots at the Four Continents and the Worlds (in which they finished an impressive ninth). Over the next two years they were top six in every major championship.
Knierim broke his leg in 2014, their first devastating setback.
However, in 2015, Knierim and Scimeca won the gold medal at the U.S. Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
The skating pair had harbored a secret for quite a while. They were a pair off the ice, too. "We didn't want anyone to know we were dating,'' Alexa said. "But Dalilah was getting the hints, asked us what was going on, and we admitted it.''
The years of 2016 and '17 were the best of times, and the worst of times on the roller coaster.
On June 26, 2016, Alexa and Chris were married in Colorado.
But Alexa spent that morning vomiting because of the severe gastrointestinal issues she suffered with for months. That April Alexa became very ill, lost weight and was experiencing intense pain and several other debilitating health problems. She underwent two abdominal surgeries. The doctor told Alexa if she hadn't been treated quickly, she could have died. After the wedding, Alexa was operated on a third time, and still has a seven-inch scar in her midsection.
The Knierims halted their workouts for several months - Alexa barely could skate for a few minutes and had to be held up on the ice by Chris - and dropped out of five prestigious events, including the 2017 U.S. Championships.
They weren't able to resume practicing until January, but did enter the World Championships, ending up 10th, which, nevertheless, produced their personal-best point total and was the highest placing by an American pair in five years.
As soon as they returned home from Helsinki, Finland, though, Chris' father Jeff died (as a result of long-lasting effects from the sarin gas), then his uncle died, and Chris went into a deep funk for months.
Chris severely injured his patella, and couldn't practice even their easiest jumps for weeks.
Over a three-year period Alexa and Chris had reached the heights (with a U.S. Championships and their marriage) and the depths (family deaths, a life-threatening issue for Alexa and another leg injury for Chris).
"We've had to overcome so many obstacles, hurdles and sacrifices,'' Alexa said, "so I leaned on Chris, then he had to rely on me for strength in our toughest days of our lives. We've been so good together, but we've had to lift ourselves though the adversities and struggles, to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"Our faith and fortitude saved us.''
And the deepest possible love they share for each other, and their sport.
They were determined to achieve their Olympic dream.
The Knierims were fifth twice and second once in the final events of 2017 as they got ready for the 2018 U.S. Championships, staged last weekend in San Jose, Calif.
Only one entry from America (for the first time since 1924) would be permitted at the '18 Games.
In the short program Chris stumbled a bit. Afterward he joked: "I think she tried to trip me.'' Alexa replied: "I cut a hole in his pants. I did nick him.'' But they recovered to win the first half of the competition. In the free skate, the Knierims again were the only couple to attempt the quad twist, and they didn't complete it cleanly. "It doesn't count much in technical points, and it's a very difficult element,'' Alex says, "but we want to do it to entertain the audience. It's pretty cool for them.''
Alexa is 5-foot-2, Chris 6-2. "Perfect heights for the pairs,'' Chris says.
They won the U.S. title for the first time in three years.
On Monday they were chosen to represent the United States in Pyeongchang, and will be the first American married couple in the pairs since the 1988 Winter Olympics. The last husband and wife to win a medal - bronze - was in 1960.
In 2014 the Olympics added team totals in figure skating, so "we have two chances to medal, and we feel Americans have a definite chance at gold,'' Chris said. "We have fulfilled our dream, but we still have our goal.''
Chris and Alexa Knierim, together as one, are about to take on another amazing adventure in their journey.
Come what may.