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Three questions with Alexa Scimeca Knierm, Chris Knierim before U.S. Championships

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Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim have had a rocky season, to say the least. The married couple split from the coach that paired them up at the end of last season and packed up to move to Oberstdorf, Germany to train under pairs’ gold medalist Aliona Savchenko. The Knierims split with Savchenko later in the fall and moved to California and now train with coaches Jenni Meno and Todd Sand.

Amid all this, they competed and won a silver medal at Nebelhorn Trophy, placed fourth at Skate America and won a bronze at NHK Trophy in Japan. Most recently, they captured another silver at Golden Spin in December.

Or as Knierim put it, “traveling all around God’s green earth, it seems like this season.”

The 2015 and 2018 national champions spoke to reporters ahead of the U.S. championships in Detroit next weekend, adding that they’ve been training well every day leading to Nationals. They’re happy with their current situation, Knierim said.

Here’s what we learned.

1. They still believe their time in Oberstdorf was valuable, despite how it ended.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim: “There’s certain things that we learned [in Germany] that we’re going to continue to incorporate on a daily basis. It’s quite simple. It just didn’t work out. Chris and I knew when we decided to part ways that there would be no regrets leaving there because we took everything we could. We just felt like if we had stayed, there would’ve been more of a downward slope in some terms of things than others. We kind of felt like we needed to save ourselves in the moment which is why we made the switch [to Jenni and Todd] so quickly.”

2. Their new coaches, who competed as a married couple in pairs’ skating themselves, offer a fresh perspective for the Knierims.

Chris Knierim: “One thing that we really liked about Jenni and Todd is that they’ve been through everything we’re going through and have been through together. They were married. They were skating and competing while they were married. It’s a really good balance between the two of them because they get everything that’s happening.”

ASK: “Jenni and I are very similar and Todd and Chris are very similar. On the training day to day when they are both present at practice, it’s very helpful for us. After an element, if we need to dissect or break something down, or if there’s maybe some tension or emotions building, I can take my two cents and talk to Jenni and Chris can take a lap with Todd. They give us insight or opinions on what to do. In the past we’ve only had one person standing at the boards and seems a little bit more refreshing and a little bit more productive.”

3. Their pets and belongings are with Scimeca Knierim’s parents in Chicago. Eventually, they couple will get their own place in California, they hope.

All of the couple’s belongings are packed in bins in Alexa’s parents garage, as well as the cars and Chris’ beloved Camaro. Her parents already had a big dog plus five cats, and the pair left their two “giant” dogs and two more cats in Chicago.

CK: “Going into us they told us, don’t worry about it. We’re gonna watch them. Just do what you need to do in Germany or wherever you’re going. We’ll take care of it.”

ASK: “My parents are animal lovers, so it’s not a big deal to them. My parents have already said they don’t want to give them back. But we’ll be taking them back!”

CK: “Since we left Dalilah [Sappenfield], we haven’t had our own place. It’s been almost a year now that we haven’t had our own place being a married couple. It’s been a crazy season for us on and off the ice. But we knew going into this season that this was a building year for us to make a good chance and get everything lined out for the next three years leading into the Olympic Games. It’s been a hard road and it’s been up and down. We’ve traveled to Germany and been all over the country, but we’re just happy that now everything is settling down. Hopefully within the next month or two we’ll be able to get our own place in California and be with our pets. Everything will just be normal. We’re happy to get to that point, to be honest.”

MORE: Three questions with Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue before U.S. Championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before. 

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U.S. Olympic 3×3 basketball qualifying teams named with former NBA player, WNBA stars

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Former NBA player Robbie Hummel and WNBA stars lead U.S. Olympic qualifying teams in the new Olympic event of 3×3 basketball.

The four-man and four-woman teams will compete in a global qualifier in India in March, each favored to grab one of three available Olympic berths per gender for the U.S.

Hummel, who unretired to become world champion in 3×3, is joined on the U.S. Olympic men’s qualifying team by Team Princeton teammates Canyon Barry and Kareem Maddox, plus Dominique Jones, who has played with Team Harlem. Team Princeton is guided by an investment firm CEO who once beat Michael Jordan one-on-one.

Last year, Hummel, Maddox and Barry (one of Rick Barry‘s sons) were part of a team that won the world title.

The U.S. women’s 3×3 qualifying roster is made up of WNBA stars Napheesa Collier, Stefanie DolsonAllisha Gray and Kelsey Plum. The U.S.’ top-ranked 3×3 player, as of last month, is Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu, who can’t play internationally this spring as she is in the thick of the NCAA season.

Olympic teams will not necessarily be made up of players from the qualifying tournament.

If the U.S. qualifies for Tokyo, it will then choose its roster(s) in a similar fashion to its traditional basketball teams — via selection committee. It’s unlikely active NBA players will be eligible.

Like with the qualifying tournament, two of the four Olympic players must be ranked in the top 10 among Americans in FIBA 3×3 rankings (as of a May 22 cutoff).

In 3×3, games last 10 minutes, or until one team reaches 21 points. Games are played on a half-court with a 12-second shot clock, and offense immediately turns to defense after a team scores.

MORE: Kobe Bryant embraced the Olympics, on and off the court

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First U.S. sailors qualify for Olympics; gold medalist misses on tiebreak

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The first five members of the U.S. Olympic sailing team were finalized this past weekend. The last American sailor to win an Olympic title missed on a tiebreaker.

Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea (49er FX), Anna Weis and Riley Gibbs (Nacra 17) and Charlie Buckingham (Laser) qualified after world championships competition concluded in Australia. The U.S. Olympic roster across all sports is now at 43 qualified athletes.

The closest race for a U.S. Olympic spot came in 49er FX. Roble and Shea edged Paris Henken and 2008 Olympic champion Anna Tobias on a tiebreak. Roble and Shea, both first-time Olympic qualifiers, won Saturday’s medal race and earned an overall bronze medal.

That put the two U.S. duos in a tie in Olympic qualifying — combining placements from the 2019 and 2020 Championships, according to TeamUSA.org. The tiebreak went to Roble and Shea for having the better finish at this year’s worlds.

Tobias, a 37-year-old who won the individual 2008 Olympic Laser Radial as Anna Tunnicliffe, came out of retirement in a bid for a third Olympics. She left competitive sailing in 2014, took up CrossFit competitions and returned to crew for Henken more than two years ago.

“We are very sad and upset,” was posted on Tobias’ Instagram, “but we wish them [Roble and Shea] the best of luck.”

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MORE: LeBron, Curry lead finalists for Olympic men’s basketball roster