Team USA figure skaters land in Irvine

Olympic bronze-medal figure skaters Alexa and Chris Knierim are two of 15 Olympic hopefuls now training at Irvine’s new ice arena.

It was a double whammy.

That’s what Alexa Knierim says when asked why she and her husband, Chris, two-time national figure skating champs and Olympic bronze medalists, left Colorado in January and drove to Irvine to train at the Great Park’s new ice arena for the 2022 Olympics. 

The first whammy: Three-time world champion figure skating husband-and-wife team Todd Sand and Jenni Meno are now coaching at the Great Park arena.

The second whammy: The new arena itself.

“The windows in the lobby bring a lot of joy and positive feelings,” Alexa says. “It’s very nice to see the sun coming in.”

There also is a ballet room, a music room, an ice bath and a sauna, plus a private locker room for Team USA Olympic figure skaters.

“Everything is here, and the quality is just state of the art,” Alexa says.

There’s even a restaurant going in, which is good because Alexa and Chris pretty much live there. Some days they arrive at 8 a.m. and don’t leave until 7 p.m.

This might not be the best arrangement for some married couples, but Alexa and Chris fell in love on the ice.

“We do our training together. We walk our dogs together. We just…”

“Are together,” Chris says, finishing her thought.

“It’s all we know and all we want right now,” Alexa says. “It’s still the only thing we desire.”

Irvine’s 15 Olympic hopefuls The day I caught up with Alexa and Chris, they were sharing Rink 3 (of four ice rinks) with a few other Olympic hopefuls.

One rink is dedicated to Team USA, so you won’t get the chance to skate alongside them, but anyone is welcome to come and watch them glide across the ice. In fact, there are 15 Olympic hopefuls training there now.

Coach Todd Sand and his wife, who ruled the U.S. pairs circuit in the ‘90s, came to Irvine’s new arena in January specifically to build up the Team USA pairs program.

“This is the preeminent rink for figure skating in the United States right now,” Coach Sand says during a break.

“It’s a real honor to be here.”