US pair skaters Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier win gold at world championships

With the top five pairings from last month’s Winter Olympics absent from the world figure skating championships, Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier leapt into the void with the performance of their careers, becoming the first American pair to win a world championship since Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner in 1979.

As if the circumstances at the world championships in Montpellier, France weren’t unusual enough already, Knierim and Frazier’s long program was delayed by several minutes when their American teammate Ashley Cain-Gribble, skating with partner Timothy LeDuc , dropped three times in the first two minutes of their show. Cain-Gribble hit his chin on the ice on the third fall and couldn’t get up as their music played, lying and sitting on the ice for some time before being pulled off the ice on a stretcher.

USA Figure Skating said Cain-Gribble was taken to hospital for “further evaluation and observation.”

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc were in second place after the short program, in perfect position to clinch a medal before having to forfeit. They were the second to last skaters in the competition, followed only by Knierim and Frazier, the leaders after the short program who hugged LeDuc before they took to the ice themselves.

“It’s surprising,” Knierim said afterwards. “You realize how dangerous skating can be. Even when you are prepared, things can happen.

“Our thoughts are with (Cain-Gribble and LeDuc),” Frazier said. “They are our friends first, our competitors second, so we were understandably very concerned to see what was going on with them.”

Knierim and Frazier easily won the gold medal, scoring 221.09 points, over 20 points ahead of Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara at 199.55 and Canadians Vanessa James and Eric Radford at 197.32. The gold medal was the first medal of any kind won by an American pair at the world championships in 20 years.

Knierim and Frazier, who missed national championships in January when Frazier tested positive for COVID-19, finished sixth at the Beijing Olympics behind gold medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China, Russian pairs at second , third and fourth places and another Chinese pair in fifth.

Russians were then banished from the world, not because of the state-sponsored doping that produced the Kamila Valieva scandal in Beijing, but because of their nation’s invasion of Ukraine. China chose not to send its skaters to the world championships.

The world pairs title was therefore up for grabs and the Americans seized the opportunity, scoring personal bests in their short and long routines.

“I always dreamed but never thought it was possible,” Knierim said.

Frazier added, “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the season. For Alexa and I, it’s been such a personal journey since we started, so to end the season on this kind of program that’s so close to our hearts, I’ve dreamed of this moment so many times but it was still better.

Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier perform during the pairs long program at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier, France on March 24, 2022.

USA Today

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