For the past 14 years, 21-year-old Alexa Scimeca has clung to a grueling training schedule to achieve her dream of representing her country in the Winter Olympics.
The Addison native's goal has never been more within reach than it will be Thursday and Saturday.
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Watch Scimeca and Knierim's free skateScimeca and Knierim's short program on Thursday afternoon will not be televised, but fans can watch the pairs free-skate program live between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday. U.S. Figure Skating officials said Friday that it has not been decided whether the competition will be carried on the NBC network or the NBC Sports Network. NBC Sports can be found on channel 640 for AT&T U-verse customers, 71 on Comcast, 220 on DirecTV and 159 on DISH Network.
Scimeca and her partner, Chris Knierim, the 2013 U.S. pairs figure skating silver medalists and the ninth-ranked pairs team in the world, will attempt to earn their way onto the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team with a first- or second-place finish at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston.
Scimeca and Knierim are scheduled to be on the ice for their short program Thursday afternoon then compete in Saturday's free skate to earn a trip next month to Sochi, Russia.
"We compete in both the short and long programs in Boston and if the combined scores qualify for first or second, we'll be on the team," Scimeca said from Colorado Springs, Colo., where the team trains and lives. "Our confidence is high. We're training really hard and feel like it's going to help us peak at just the right time."
Though she's been imagining this opportunity since she first stepped on the ice 14 years ago at Addison Ice Arena, Scimeca said her preparation and focus have not wavered under the pressure.
"We've kept the same six-day-a-week training schedule, including our off-ice and dance classes," she said. "It's tough these last few weeks to keep humble and focus on the day-to-day stuff, but we both know we can't get too caught up in what could or could not happen."
The dream doesn't end in Sochi, though. Scimeca feels she, 21, and Knierim, 26, are young and healthy enough to look toward the future.
"As long as Chris and I remain healthy, we plan to skate up until the 2018 Winter Olympics and then take our experience to the traveling shows," she said. "Get used to us, because we're making our way to the top of the rankings and we're going to be around for a while. As a couple, we share the same morals and commitment to our training and our craft, and that can only help us."
Her mom, Tina Scimeca, acknowledges "it's been a long road," but hopes her daughter has many years of skating ahead of her.
"My daughter's dream is coming full circle, and she's going to achieve it. How cool is that?" Tina Scimeca said. "We're crossing lots of fingers around here and saying many prayers."
The family will head to Boston Friday afternoon to see the pair's free skate performance, but Tina Scimeca, a teacher at Addison Trail Elementary School, said they may not be able to stay late enough Sunday to see the Olympic team announced.
Alexa, a 2010 Addison Trail High School graduate, also has fans back at the school tracking her progress. Among them are her former guidance counselor Kevin Redding and social studies teacher Jose Hernandez.
"I don't know that any of us, at the time, realized how big this was going to get and that she'd be knocking on the Olympics' door," Redding said. "But her dedication to skating and the horrendously grueling schedule she followed certainly told us all she would be special."
Hernandez, also a family friend, said he always was surprised how well Alexa was able to balance her on-ice life with her school work and social life.
"Alexa has many gifts, and she has used them all to her benefit," he said. "You would never know she was juggling as much as she was by the way she carried herself."
Scimeca appreciates the support, saying she doesn't get back very often.
"Trips home have definitely, unfortunately, been at a minimum. We were able to go home straight from a competition in Moscow for Thanksgiving, but then it was right back to the grind," she said. "It's cool that people from school and my neighborhood are watching and supporting Chris and I. Dorothy was right when she said 'There's no place like home.'"
There are some things from home that can't be replicated in Colorado Springs.
"I can't even tell you how much I miss Portillo's out here. I mean, it's probably best since it wouldn't work with my training, but I miss it so much," she said. "Last time we were in, I had to introduce Chris to it so he knew what I was craving."
"It definitely lived up the hype," Knierim said.
They'll go to Portillo's again the next time they come home, for sure.
"And hopefully we'll have some shiny medals to bring in to show them," Scimeca said.