Chris and Alexa Knierim's real life love story

Watching Alexa and Chris Knierim — the first married couple to represent the United States in the Olympics since 1998 — skate in the PyeongChang Olympics can leave many a viewer with goosebumps. Their love for each other is palpable, and their incredible commitment to each other, in addition to the obstacles they had to overcome in order to reach the Olympics, are what dreams are made of.

Coach, aka matchmaker

Alexa and Chris were introduced by their coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, in 2012. But, oddly enough, Sappenfield had wanted to get them together starting in 2010 — and Chris' mom had even approached Alexa to see if she would be willing to skate with him. "I had already teamed up and had already moved to a new state to skate," Alexa told Cosmopolitan, so she turned down the offer. However, the two often saw each other at competitions, and Chris said they competed against each other at Nationals the season before they were paired up. "I will admit, I thought he was attractive," Alexa told Cosmo.

Two years later, both Alexa and Chris had ended their previous skating partnerships, as they explain on their website, and Sappenfield told Alexa to drop everything so she could come try out with Chris. Alexa did exactly that — and, as they say, the rest is history.

Their chemistry is palpable

Alexa's mom Tina told NBC 5 Chicago that the chemistry between Chris and Alexa was instantaneous, saying that "She [Alexa] actually texted me and said, 'Mom, he's really cute and he's really nice'. … I could already tell she was getting butterflies in her tummy."

The Knierims elaborated further on their website, noting that they hit it off as soon as Chris picked up Alexa at the airport for their tryout. As they drove, a song came on the radio — and they shared their first bonding moment while ranting about how their shared dislike of the tune. They were pumped to skate together, "like kids on Christmas morning anticipating how the gift opening would go." They didn't have to wait long to find out: Within minutes starting the tryout, they "both knew that this was the beginning of a great future together."

Their coach officiated their wedding

In addition to being their coach, Sappenfield had served as a de-facto matchmaker and was largely responsible for Chris and Alexa meeting in the first place. Given their close relationship with Sappenfield, they asked her to officiate their wedding. Chris even "proposed" the idea to Sappenfield, presenting her with a cake that had "will you marry us?" printed on it, according to NBC.

Chris and Alexa wed in June 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they train. Adding to the "awwww" factor, Sappenfield's son, Larry Ibarra — who according to the Ice Network, also helps coach the couple — served as the ceremony's "flower girl." As professional figure skaters, they also added a personal flourish to their vows, symbolizing their life together by attaching a blade to a skating boot. 

"In sickness and in health"

When Chris and Alexa said "in sickness and in health," they really meant it: Alexa had been sick since April 2016 with a mysterious condition that caused her to spend 10-12 hours vomiting, multiple times per week. After many visits to the emergency room and consults with over ten doctors, she described to NBC that she was finally diagnosed in August 2016 with a rare and potentially fatal gastrointestinal condition.

Her illness left her totally debilitated. "I couldn't fall asleep because the pain would just wake me up," she said. The pain and vomiting caused her to become "malnourished and sleep-deprived and weak," she said — and indeed, she had lost 20 pounds by the time she started receiving treatment.

She underwent three surgeries in the last half of 2016 — and even once she was on the road to recovery, she had become so weak that just skating around the ice was a challenge. "Initially … we had to relearn everything," she told The Chicago Tribune. "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." Eventually she healed enough for them to resume training, and just over a year later, they were on their way to the Olympics.

Literally cannot get enough of each other

As many couples know, living and working together can either take things to the next level in terms of emotional intimacy, or it can drive a couple absolutely bananas. Luckily, the Knierims are in the first camp. "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," Alexa told People. "We support each other and we kind of know what the other one needs in that moment."

"We get to travel together, we get to skate together, compete together, and live our dreams together, which is a unique thing," Chris explained in an interview with Cosmopolitan. "It's not like I have to go to some country alone and then come home and tell Alexa all about it. She's there to experience it with me."

Communicating like champions

Their shared career pushed them to learn how best to support and communicate with each other. "We learned our lessons as a couple on and off the ice each year that we've been together," Alexa told The Chicago Tribune.

Chris agreed, saying that when they have opposing opinions on the ice, they have to work out their disagreements right then and there — because they can't just argue, walk away to cool off, and then reconvene to resolve the issue. Because of this, they've had to learn how to communicate well with each other, which also involves avoiding pushing each other's buttons.

"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," Alexa explained.

Chris echoed this sentiment, saying that their connection is so strong that each one knows exactly what the other person needs in any given moment. "There are no more issues as far as arguments or things like that," he said. "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." 

#CoupleGoals, anyone?

They have yet to take their honeymoon

Nearly two years after their 2016 wedding, they still haven't had a chance to go on their honeymoon. Because Alexa's illness was diagnosed only two months after they got married, the couple's focus was understandably on helping her through her surgeries and recovery.

Once she was healthy enough to begin training, the couple set their sights on the Olympics — which are generally considered to be just a bit time consuming and labor intensive — and their training schedule hasn't left much time for a honeymoon. However, once the Olympics are over, they may finally have the chance.

"After the Olympics, Alexa's sister is getting married and we're going on a cruise in Alaska," Chris told Us Weekly, and Alexa piped in, suggesting that they might get around to taking their honeymoon afterward. "That would be a good idea," quipped Chris — and now that their schedules are a bit more open, they finally have their chance. 

With or without a honeymoon, one thing's for sure: Their fans will continue to root for them and their fairy-tale romance, both on and off the ice!