Making it to the Winter Olympics means so much more to figure skating duo Alexa Scimeca Knierim and her husband Chris Knierim after a nasty health scare almost sidelined them for good.
Less than two years ago, Alexa began the battle for her life when she was diagnosed with a “rare and potentially deadly” gastrointestinal condition. Now, she is back on the ice and going for the gold with her husband by her side but just being back on the ice is enough for the figure skater.
“Today wasn’t a brilliant skate by any means, but we’re just so happy to be here,” Alexa said on Thursday after competing and earning their best score for the season on Thursday night. “We’ve already won by being able to step on the ice.”
“This competition’s very meaningful for us,” she said, according to PEOPLE. “We’ve kind of been lacking the joy and lightheartedness of life for about two years now, from all the struggles we’ve been through, so being here together, Chris and I are kind of just enjoying it.”
Alexa was diagnosed in August of 2016, two months after marrying Chris but said she felt sick as early as April of that year. She ended up undergoing three surgeries and the couple were forced to withdraw from several skating events as she focused on her recovery.
In November 2017, she showed off her scar from her numerous surgeries in a post on Instagram with Chris.
“My scar is my best accessory. Made from resilience and faith. 👛👒👠,” she wrote adding, “#scar #warrior #fighter #skin #imperfections #perfection #mystory #married #otherhalf #myrock #husband #caretaker.”
After the couple’s free skate this week, they opened up to reporters about their deep connection their Christian values helped them get through her difficult diagnosis and eventual recovery.
“It’s the reason I was able to get back on the ice because I stopped worrying and stopped trying to control life, because I couldn’t. In the moment, you know, I was so sick and didn’t really know where things were going to go for me, whether it was skating or life in general. So I finally just threw my hands up and said like, ‘You lead the way,’ and it’s my testimony and I stay true to it,” she said. “And even here at the Games, it’s no longer about me. I have fans out there who know that I am a true believer in the Lord and I’m trying my best to shine his light and let people know that it’s okay to promote him and do things for him, because in the Christian life that’s kind of what we’re supposed to.”
Her husband shared similar thoughts on faith saying, “I think [religion has] played out in her a little stronger than me because of the situation she was put in.”
The publication reports that the couple share a group prayer before every one of their competitions and they regularly lean on the support of fellow Christian athletes where they live in Colorado.
The couple is now looking on the positive side as they go into their first Olympics.
“We’ve had a tough couple of years, and this is just something really special,” she said.
The couple return to the ice for the Pair Skating Short Program on Feb. 14.