Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier have been forced to withdraw from the US Championships, after the latter tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.
It is a big blow to the pair’s aspirations to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, as Thursday’s event is used as trials for the Beijing Olympics.
They can still qualify for next month’s Games, but now petition the selection committee and prove they are fit enough to be chosen, according to NBC Chicago.
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The United States has two spots in the pairs field for China, which makes their quest to appear at the Games an even more arduous one.
“We're aware of the process and I have been through it before,” said Knierim, who has a previous track record of petitioning to make an event after being sidelined with abdominal surgery, but appealed to secure a place at the 2017 Four Continents event.
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Knierim took part at the 2018 Winter Olympics with her retired husband, Chris, and secured a 15th-place finish.
“I am devastated,” Frazier added. “Any athlete would agree with me, you always want to have the ability to go out and compete. This has been one of the most emotional days of my career. There's nothing you can do, you have to be safe and smart, but the competitor in you wants to go out and compete and defend your title.”
The situation is all the more frustrating for the duo, who are both double-vaccinated and received their boosters. This is the case for their coaches, who are Jenni Meno and Todd Sand – former US champions.
“We feel we provided a safe bubble environment at home, kept the skaters so they weren't cross mixing,” Sand added.
Meanwhile, Meno compounded the feelings of frustration felt within their camp and said: “It's pretty shocking and upsetting.”
However, there is hope that Knierim and Frazier can still make it to Beijing, with the duo putting up the best numbers of any of the American pairs.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier
Image credit: Getty Images
This will be taken into account in the US Figure Skating’s process for determining who ends up going to the Games, so their chances of a successful petition appear to be rather good.
But whatever happens next month, they will not be competing at Thursday’s event in Nashville.
“Coming in to these championships I felt the strongest and most prepared I have in my entire career of skating,” Knierim added.
“Brandon and I felt the strongest we have ever been. We felt more than ready to defend and very confident in our abilities to skate well and having a fair shot at earning out Olympic spot here. We really wanted to do what we came here to do and earn our spot.”
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