Golden Debut Courtesy U.S. Figure Skating/Jay Adeff

When Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Brandon Frazier teamed up a little over six months ago, few doubted the pairing would be anything but successful. However, it is likely no one expected them to leap to the top step of the podium in their competitive debut at 2020 Skate America.

First out of the gate in the short program, the duo reeled off seven clean elements, starting with a solid triple twist. Coached by Jenni Meno, Todd Sand and Rafael Arutyunyan (along with Chris Knierim) in Irvine, California, the team earned Level 4s for three elements with the step sequence graded a Level 3. Knierim and Frazier earned positive GOEs across the board and with 74.19 points for their efforts, maintained the lead from start to finish.

“We are really grateful to have the opportunity to skate with each other so we are really motivated and with that kind of positive energy we can work through challenges and roadblocks,” said Frazier. “There were elements that gelled quickly, and some elements that took a lot of time, and are still taking a lot of time. We are grinding it out, staying positive and trusting our team and support system. We are enjoying it.”

Training mates Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson sat in second place with 71.08 points. Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov sat in third with 67.52 points.

In what can only be described as a less than stellar pairs final, Scimeca Knierim and Frazier were one of the few standouts. Last to skate in the free, the duo sailed through their program set to “Fall on Me” by Andrea Bocelli and Matteo Bocelli, with just one technical issue on the side-by-side triple Salchows. They closed out the competition with 214.77 points, a margin of 7.37 over the second-placed team.

“Alexa and I are very honoured to be given this opportunity. We are very happy with the progress we made this week. We had small goals we tried to achieve,” said Frazier. “We are satisfied with the foundation we built and now have. The throws and twist were the biggest challenges for us. We were working on double twists in a parking lot six months ago. We just took it one step at a time.”

“I made a joke to Brandon when we got our scores that this partnership was going to work, but I didn’t have any doubts before,” Scimeca Knierim added. “We feel our hard work is being validated. We are excited for what is to come and excited to keep improving. It is great to get a medal at this Grand Prix … even it if was a local competition the placement always makes you feel great, but at the end of the day it is all about what you put out on the ice.”

The free skate was not a walk in the park for Calalang and Johnson who lost their rhythm at various points in their “Who Wants to Live Forever” routine, which saw problems on the side-by-side Salchows, the combination jump and the throw triple Lutz. The California-based team finished in second place with 207.40 points.

“Getting this medal is a big step up for us,” said Calalang. “We look forward to continue working and hopefully get a few more. We are a little disappointed about our long program. We had a couple of mistakes on elements that we know we can do. We will go home and keep on working.”

Lu and Mitrofanov provided the biggest surprise of the pairs competition. Though the duo experienced a couple of technical issues — Lu fell on the throw triple loop and touched down on the throw triple Lutz — they produced a solid triple twist, a triple Salchow-Euler-double Salchow jump combination and side-by-side triple toe loops. They ranked fourth in the free but held on to capture the bronze with 189.65 points, edging out fourth-place finishers Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc by just 0.42 of a point.

“We are very happy and fortunate with this bronze medal and we are very proud of ourselves. This definitely gives us a confidence boost,” Mitrofanov said. “We know there are certain areas where we need to improve. We want to go in right direction and need to push ourselves.”

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea finished fifth with 174.35.

The press conference for the pairs free ended on a lighthearted note when the cat belonging to ISU media representative Tatjana Flade made her live online debut, much to the delight of Scimeca Knierim, an avowed cat lover.