By Blythe Lawrence | Sept. 29, 2018, 12:32 p.m. (ET)

(L-R) Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim react after their routine at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 14, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

 

The “building year” is off to a silver start.

Husband-and-wife pairs figure skating team Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim claimed the second spot as they opened their 2018-19 season at the Nebelhorn Trophy Saturday in Oberstdorf, Germany.

After topping the standings with 61.73 points in the short program for their avant-garde rendition of Halsey’s “Castle,” mistakes, including a side-by-side jump that left both sitting on the ice, marred their free skate, performed to a tender version of “Wicked Game” sung by James Vincent McMorrow.

They finished with a combined total of 177.22 points, good enough for second behind Russia’s Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin, who claimed the title with 178.94 points.

Thirty-five-year-old Deanna Stellato, an up-and-coming individual skater for Team USA in the early 2000s who left the sport and resumed as a pairs skater in 2016 with 2014 Olympian Nate Bartholomay, finished with the bronze (174.91). 

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The Knierims, part of the American contingent that claimed bronze in the team competition at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, had an easy commute to the Eissportzentrum venue. Beginning this spring, they have been dividing their training time between the greater Chicago area and Oberstdorf, where they are skating under the guidance of PyeongChang pairs gold medalist Aljona Savchenko.

It’s a new world for all involved. From 2012 to 2018, the Knierims made their home at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they married in 2016 in a ceremony officiated by their then-coach, Dalilah Sappenfield. Craving a change post-PyeongChang, they teamed up with Savchenko, who had never coached elite skaters before. 

So far, the unusual arrangement has worked out. Savchenko, whose elegance-filled free skate with Bruno Massot remains one of the defining moments of the PyeongChang Games, has worked to bring out the quality in the Knierims’ already impressive repertoire of skills. 

With a total of 180.95, the U.S. team of Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons captured silver in ice dance, just in front of Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, who took bronze (177.49). Both the U.S. men and U.S. women finished just off the podiums in the individual competition. Mariah Bell and Ashley Lin were fourth and fifth, respectively, following the women’s free skate, as were Tim Dolensky and Alex Krasnozhon.

Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.