Chris and Alexa Knierim are a figure skating couple who defied the odds and prevailed despite tremendous hardship to make it to the Olympics. Chris, 30, posted a tribute to his wife on Twitter:

According to People, the Knierims were introduced to one another by their coach in 2012. The two hit it off right away, on and off the rink; a month after they started skating together, they started dating, and two years later, they got engaged.

Alexa, 26, told the Chicago Tribune:

“Chris and I started having feelings for each other very early on in our partnership. It was something we didn’t think too much about. We kind of went with the flow.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, they won a silver medal at their first U.S. Championship in 2015.

Alexa Knierim/Instagram

Things were going well for the couple until Chris broke his leg. The couple also did not qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, although according to People, they “served as the second alternates in Sochi.”

Toward the end of the season in 2015, at a competition, Alexa began vomiting uncontrollably. According to People, Alexa would vomit “for hours on end with no clear cause in sight.” These “episodes” even occurred the night before their 2016 wedding.

Alexa Knierim/Instagram

People reports that Alexa met with multiple specialists until she received a diagnosis for a “rare and potentially fatal gastrointestinal illness.” She had three surgeries, one of which left a long scar on her upper body.

Alexa told People:

“[W]e had to withdraw from all of our events for the first half of the year. My life, our life, changed drastically in that time period — life was on hold and we weren’t really sure what life would be for the two of us.”

People reports that the surgeries left her extremely weak; she weighed only 80 pounds and lost muscle and “body mechanics.”

Alexa told the Chicago Tribune:

“Initially after my setback with my stomach illness, we had to relearn everything. And it was very difficult to train because my stomach incision was still healing. And in pairs skating there’s a lot of hand contact near the abdomen.”

She added to People:

“The very first time I stepped back on the ice after my surgeries, Chris had to hold me up because my body was not capable of standing on its own.”

But with Chris’ support and Alexa’s stamina and dedication, she recovered, and the couple placed seventh at the Four Continents Championships in 2017 and 10th at the World Championships. People reports that these were some of the highest scores in U.S. history.

Alexa Knierim/Instagram

Although they had missed most of the 2016-17 season, Alexa was feeling better. But then Chris’ knee started acting up. It interfered with their training, and he was not able to do many jumps. And in 2017, Chris’ father passed away.

Alexa told the Chicago Tribune that “it seemed like one bad thing after another.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that the couple was struggling to get to know one another as newlyweds while simultaneously dealing with tremendous setbacks and adversity. Chris said they worked together to learn how to communicate and deal with conflict effectively.

Alexa Knierim/Instagram

Chris told the Chicago Tribune:

“In the rink, on the ice, communication is No. 1. … We’re so connected now and know exactly what each other needs that there are no more issues as far as arguments or things like that. It was work, but just like any relationship, there’s always work to be done at the beginning. Then you find your stride as a couple.”

Alexa added:

“If one of us is upset after a mistake, instead of saying, ‘Can you have a better attitude?’ or ‘Can you not react so negatively?’ we’ve learned go about it a different way. It’s like, ‘What can I do to help you?’ Or you just lend a supportive hand.”

The Knierims believe that these trials and tribulations they faced made them a stronger couple and better competitors on the ice.

Alexa Knierim/Instagram

Alexa said that it helped them become extremely connected with one another, which is evident in their romantic skating routines.

Alexa told People:

“We just know everything about each other, and I think it helps in the day-to-day when we go to practice and when we compete. We support each other and we kind of know what the other one needs in that moment, and I think that’s what pushes us forward to be the great team that we are.”

Additionally, Chris and Alexa attribute their ability to overcome their adversity and success to their unwavering faith in God.

The couple made it to the Olympics in Pyeongchang and placed fourth in the free skate.

Alexa Knierim/Instagram

Alexa admitted:

“Today wasn’t a brilliant skate by any means, but we’re just so happy to be here. We’ve already won by being able to step on the ice.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that reaching the Olympics has added some levity and joy to their lives, which they simply haven’t had due to their hardships.

Alexa said:

“This competition’s very meaningful for us. We’ve kind of been lacking the joy and lightheartedness of life for about two years now, from all the struggles we’ve been through, so being here together, Chris and I are kind of just enjoying it.”

Alexa Knierim/Instagram

Chris told People:

“Coming here, you know, this is the cherry on top. We’ve had a tough couple of years, and this is just something really special.”

Chris was spot-on when he said that their photo says it all; every photo and video of their skating shows how loving and connected Chris and Alexa are. This couple serves as an amazing example of how dedication, faith, and love can help anyone overcome difficult life challenges.

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