(RNS) — After overcoming a life-threatening illness two years ago, Olympic pairs figure skater Alexa Scimeca Knierim had to relearn how to skate. The touch of her husband and skating partner Chris Knierim’s hand was enough to reopen the wounds from her surgeries.
Scimeca Knierim lost a lot of faith in herself, she told Figure Skaters Online.
But, the 26-year-old said: “I grew confidence in a different area. In a nutshell, I may have lost a lot of faith in myself, but I grew with my faith in God.
“I have some insecurities now that I didn’t have before, but I’m able to work on it and move forward because I’ve shifted my focus and my attention to my faith instead of myself.”
The couple already has helped Team USA to a bronze medal in the team figure skating competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with a season-best performance in the short program and overall fourth-place finish.
They currently are in 14th place after their short program and are scheduled to take the ice again Wednesday (Feb. 14) for their final free skate in the pairs figure skating competition.
But, Scimeca Knierim told People magazine, “We’ve already won by being able to step on the ice.”
She and Knierim, 30, started skating together in 2012 when they were introduced by her coach and connected both on and off the ice, according to NBC. They married in 2016.
Months later, Scimeca Knierim underwent her first of three stomach surgeries for a rare, potentially fatal gastrointestinal condition. The pair missed almost all of the 2016-17 season’s competitions as she recovered, her new husband holding her so she wouldn’t fall when she returned.
Her Christian faith was “the reason I was able to get back on the ice,” she told People.
“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.”
That faith plays a big role in the pair’s lives, she said. The two take part in a group prayer before competitions and meet regularly with other Christian athletes in Colorado, where they now live, according to People.
The couple recaptured the U.S. national pairs title just last month and was named the only U.S. pair on the Olympic team, according to NBC.
For Scimeca Knierim, the Olympics are an opportunity to “glorify God, and my followers know that that’s my purpose and it makes me happy,” she told People.
“Even here at the Games, it’s no longer about me,” she said. “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.”