SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A long time coming getting back to the top of the podium, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier captured another national pairs gold at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night with a spectacular free skate that scored them an overall season-best 227.97.
The reigning world champions were forced to withdraw the night before last year’s nationals when Frazier contracted COVID-19, denying them a chance to defend their 2021 title from their first season together.
Skating second-to-last and ahead of eventual silver medalists Emily Chan and Spencer Howe, Knierim and Frazier performed a breathtaking routine to Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” for a 146.01 to win by more than 30 points. They recovered from a slight miscue in their planned triple toeloop-double toeloop-double toeloop combination by going clean the rest of the way and executing all the difficult elements with flair and determination.
When they were done, fans jumped to their feet in a rousing ovation.
The tandem, who train in Southern California and paired up after Knierim’s husband Chris retired from skating in 2020, had to petition for a spot on the Olympic team for Beijing after missing the 2022 nationals. There, they helped the Americans to a silver medal in the team event and placed sixth in pairs. The twosome also earned silver in the Grand Prix final last month.
Knierim and Frazier held a commanding lead of more than 15 points over Chan and Howe — 81.96 to 66.86 — after a personal-best short program Thursday heading into Saturday’s free skate.
Chan and Howe continued their breakout season with a season-best score of 196.86 and their 130.00 free skate, set to a rendition of “Unchained Melody.” They lost points when Chan fell on their throw triple loop.
Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea placed third with a 184.01. They came into Saturday sitting third after scoring a 65.75 short program, then Kam fell on their opening triple twist in the free skate and nearly slid into the boards. The two teamed up just four months ago and have high hopes of an Olympic run.
Sonia Baram and Daniel Tioumentsev were fourth at 179.08, scoring a 115.96 in the free skate to move up from fifth place after the short program with a beautiful routine Saturday at SAP Center.
Earlier Saturday, Madison Chock and Evan Bates defended their ice dancing title Saturday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, scoring 137.85 in the free dance for a top total score of 229.75.
The recently engaged couple has medaled at nationals in every season since 2013. That’s 11 straight years, which matches former training mates Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (2012-22) for the most consecutive years on the U.S. ice dance podium.
“It’s a great honor to be one of the teams with the longest longevity in the sport,” Chock said. “It’s something that we really pride ourselves on because we’re very motivated people. That’s something that drives us through our career, and we’ve had a lot of success because of that.”
AP Freelance Writer Sonja Chen contributed to this report.
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