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U.S. Olympic skater Chris Knierim and his wife, Alexa Scimeca Knierim, became bronze medalists in figure skating’s team competition in Gangneung, South Korea, on Feb. 11.

Standing on the podium, Chris Knierim reflected on his late stepfather, Jeff Knierim, who also represented the United States but as a soldier in the Army. Before deploying to Desert Storm, Jeff Knierim served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Germany, according to recent story by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“I know he’s proud of me,” Chris said of his stepfather, who began dating Chris’s mother when he was 6 months old and raised him as his own.

Jeff Knierim, who resided in Ramona, California, with his wife DeeDee, died in April 2017 at age 49 due to a brain aneurysm. His family links his health problems to the sarin gas that he and an estimated 100,000 troops were exposed to while in Iraq, the article said.

“I love our flag and I love our country, and I’m very proud that he fought for our country and served our country,” Chris said in the article. “I’m serving it in a little different way, but I’m very happy about it, very fortunate to be at the Olympic Games and win a medal, very proud. I was fortunate to have him as long as I did. I always wish he was here, but I know he’s looking down, watching.”

The article said Jeff Knierim, who often teared up when his son was introduced as “representing the United States” during an international competition, sent Chris and Alexa a message before he died.

“Being WARRIORS is in your blood, just let it out and you will conquer every goal you set. So proud of you two. It’s more than a dad could ever express,” the message said.

Chris and Alexa Knierim will compete again later this week in pair skating. The entire story by The San Diego Union-Tribune can be found here.

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