Team USA Sits in Second After Day 1 of Team Event in Gangneung

Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images

Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images

Team USA’s Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and husband Chris Knierim turned in a season-best short program to help lift the United States into second place in the Team Event on the opening day of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Competing in the 10-team pairs short program competition at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea, the Knierims successfully landed their side-by-side triple Salchows for one of the first times this season in competition, and their throw triple flip. Only a trip by Alexa near the end of their performance prevented them from going well over 70 points, finishing instead with a score of 69.75 and in fourth place.

After landing their huge throw, Alexa celebrated with a fist in the air.

“I sensed Chris had landed his jump, because I can’t see him,” Alexa said. “But I felt his aura — that he did it. And I did it. I thought, ‘You have to hit this throw,’ because I didn’t want to mess up the throw when we finally landed the jumps. While in the air, I felt like this was going to be a good one and started to celebrate.”

The only negative in the program came late when Alexa tripped near the boards, the result she said of just being so excited.

“We came out of the lift and the crowd was going crazy, and I thought we are at the Olympics and we had landed our jumps,” Alexa said. “I just tripped. Heck, I trip walking.”

Competing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” (OAR), Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the competition with a score of 80.92.

A disappointing short program earlier in the day by two-time and reigning U.S. champion Nathan Chen resulted in a fourth-place finish in the men’s portion of the Team Event.

Chen, undefeated this season, fell on his triple Axel and doubled a planned quad toe which resulted in no credit. He finished with 80.61 points. Japan’s Shoma Uno placed first with 103.25 points.

“I wasn’t thinking about the right technical things before the jumps; I was a little bit ahead of myself,” Chen said. “It’s obviously not what I wanted to do on my first Olympic run. I’m also upset that I let the rest of the team down, but I’m confident they will be able to pull through with good skates. I’m glad I got the opportunity to at least come out here and put out the program and learn from it. Now all I can do is try and analyze what I did wrong and just let it go.”

In the Team Event, countries compile points based on their placement in each event, with first place receiving 10 points down to a single point for 10th place. The two fourth-place American finishes give Team USA 14 points, three behind Canada and one ahead of Japan and the OAR.