Married pairs figure skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim sealed their season-best performance, on Friday morning at the 2018 Winter Olympics, with a kiss on the ice — and a chorus of “awwws” from the audience in the arena (and probably around the world).
“When we kissed, in the back of my mind I was like: We’re on Olympic ice. It’s still such a big deal, we’re still like kids taking it in,” Alexa tells PEOPLE only minutes after leaving the rink.
She says once she heard the audience’s reaction to the couple’s smooch, “I was like, ‘Chris do one more!’ ”
The Knierims, first-time Olympians who started skating together in 2012 and wed in June 2016, had “hands down” their best short program of the season when they took to the ice for the team skating event on Friday morning in Gangneung, South Korea, Chris later told reporters.
Their final score of 69.75 earned them the top spot for a time until Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford bumped them to No. 2. They eventually landed in fourth, behind Canada, Germany and Russia.
In the team event, men, women, pairs and ice dancers from 10 top countries all perform the first of two programs; the five best nations from those performances advance to the second routine from each of the four categories — and the top three medal.
Alexa and Chris, 26 and 30 respectively, came into the Winter Games this week fresh off their second national pairs title. They were clearly exulting in their success at the Olympics, which helped sustain Team USA’s medal chances after a disappointing fall from Nathan Chen in the men’s short program earlier in the day.
Speaking to press after skating, the Knierims both said they were more calm than nervous on the world stage, with Chris noting it was going through nationals and making the cut for Team USA that was the more tense experience.
“Coming here, you know, this is the cherry on top,” he said. “We’ve had a tough couple of years and this is just something really special.”
Not long before their wedding two years ago, Alexa was diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal gastrointestinal condition from which she later recovered.
Should the U.S. qualify for the free skate and free dance, the Knierims will be back at the Gangneung Ice Arena before they return again to compete for the pairs medal.
“We’re here for the team and everything, but we’re also here just to kind of do our best,” Alexa said. “And if that helps the team, then we did our job.”