World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier won Grand Prix England, becoming the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix events in one season and the first U.S. pair to qualify for the Grand Prix Final since 2015.
Knierim and Frazier, leaders after Friday’s short program, totaled 205.85 points after Saturday’s free skate. They prevailed by 21.66 over Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii.
Knierim and Frazier, who last season became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, rank second in the world this season by best total score. They trail Japanese Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who tallied 212.02 points at Skate Canada two weeks ago and weren’t in the Grand Prix England field.
Those two pairs will likely be the favorites at December’s Grand Prix Final, which pits the top six pairs from the six-event Grand Prix Series and is often a preview of March’s world championships.
Pairs has been the discipline with the most change since the Olympics. None of the top five teams from the Games from Russia and China have competed since (Knierim and Frazier were sixth at the Olympics, best result for a U.S. pair in 20 years).
All Russian skaters are banned due to the invasion of Ukraine. Zero skaters from China have competed on the Grand Prix Series through the first four events.
Knierim and Frazier are the lone U.S. pair to win a full-fledged Grand Prix in the last 16 years. Two other U.S. pairs won one Grand Prix since the series started in 1995 — Jenni Meno and Todd Sand (Knierim and Frazier’s coaches) in 1996 and Rena Inoue and John Baldwin in 2006.
Before the Grand Prix Series started, Kitty Carruthers and Peter Carruthers and Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard each won multiple Grand Prix-equivalent events in the 1980s.
Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner are the modern standard for U.S. pairs — three consecutive world championships medals in the 1970s (bronze, bronze, gold) and five consecutive national titles.
Earlier Saturday, Japan’s Mai Mihara topped the women’s short program with 72.23 points, edging American Isabeau Levito by .17 going into Sunday’s free skate. Levito, the world junior champion, will likely qualify for the Grand Prix Final if she finishes in the top three.
Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell fell twice in her short program in her first competition in 18 months and placed 10th of 12 skaters. Tennell, sidelined all of last season with a foot injury, missed training time over the last two months with an ankle injury.
Favored Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri topped the rhythm dance with 86.30 points, edging Brits Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson by .93.
Guignard and Fabbri, who won Grand Prix France last week, rank second in the world this season by best total score behind Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who are not in this week’s field.
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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier win Grand Prix England, extend historic 2022 originally appeared on NBCSports.com