SALT LAKE CITY - Alexa Scimeca Knierim, who battled serious illness for much of 2016, said Thursday that she is "probably the healthiest I've been ever."
But, she and husband/pairs partner, Chris Knierim, are both far from the skating shape they want to have later this season.
"We're not trying to be at a peak here," Alexa said after a mistake-riddled performance left them third in Thursday's short program at the 2017 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. "It's hard to maintain all the way to February for, hopefully, the Olympics. Pacing is a huge factor. We don't feel totally prepared for this competition, and that's OK."
The Knierims, top U.S. finishers at the last three World Championships, lost points when he doubled their side-by-side triple salchows and because they received low levels on their pair combination spin and step sequence. Their skating throughout the program was tentative.
"We know we left a lot of level points out there," he said.
They finished with 61.32 points, behind Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (65.76), and Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson of the U.S. (61.46). Reigning U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier finished seventh with 55.26 points after she fell on a side-by-side triple salchow.
Scimeca Knierim's illnesses -- which led to three abdominal surgeries and sidelined the team for the Grand Prix and the U.S. Championships last season -- left her with a major effort to rebuild muscle mass. She got enough back to skate respectably at worlds last April, but knew a lot of work remained.
"I got the job done at worlds, but I wasn't strong enough," she said. "I didn't have the muscle mass and reflexes I need to feel confident in myself. Since then, I have spent a lot of time in the gym and on the ice jumping to get it back."
But not all of it just yet.
News and Notes
Madison Hubbell doesn't hide her insecurities. She writes about them in a blog on her ice dance team's official web site.
In a recent entry, Hubbell, 26, described how a couple bad days of practice with her first competition two weeks away had left her frustrated, impatient, ranting to her boyfriend -- Spanish ice dancer Adrià Diaz -- and rating her stress level at 8 on a scale of 10.
It seemed odd that a skater coming off the best season of her dance partnership with Zachary Donahue should have felt such angst over opening the season at a Challenger Series event, the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, which opens its ice dance competition Friday.
After all, Hubbell and Donahue have picked up three consecutive bronze medals at the U.S. Championships and seem likely to earn one of the top three spots on the 2018 Olympic team.
"I don't see it as angst," Hubbell said after practice Thursday.
Instead, she thinks letting the world see the entire range of her emotions is a way to give a fuller picture of the sport.
"One thing I see in the skating world is we're so focused on giving the perfect image, and it is important to do that when it matters in competition," she said. "(But) sometimes, talking to fans, they have a false sense of their own insecurity based on seeing how you are and how you project yourself.
"I wanted to open myself up to young girls inside and outside the sport to let them know a little more of what goes on behind the scenes and that it's not a perfect journey every single day," she added. "I mostly write about the hardships because I think people only see the great performances in our sport. I wanted to shine a light on how difficult it is to do what we do every day."
(This article originally appeared on icenetwork.)