DAVIS AND WHITE STRIVE FOR EVER-GREATER HEIGHTS

by Sarah S. Brannen

2010 Olympic silver medalists and 2011 world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s competitive resumé stretches back fifteen years. The ice dancers teamed up at the ages of nine and ten, when they were so young and shy that they could barely talk to each other. The team competed at the U.S. championships the last time they were held in Boston, in 2001; they finished in sixth place in the novice competition.

“The last time Nationals was in Boston I think it was our second year as novices,” White said. “We were still very young, kind of intimidated by the whole thing, competing against kids with a bit more maturity. I had a pretty bad fall in the free dance, actually. It was one of those times where the moment kind of got to us. It was a big stepping-stone.”

Davis and White have returned to Boston several times since then, both with the “Stars on Ice” tour and to star in The Skating Club of Boston’s “Ice Chips” show in 2010.

“Charlie and I were able to spend the most time getting to know Boston on the Stars on Ice tour in 2010,” Davis said. “We had a full day off in the city, so we got to go around with everybody and we got to explore. We were here for Ice Chips and everybody was nice enough to show us around. It’s a very historically rich city so it’s interesting to walk around downtown and see places that are the oldest in the country.”

“We love the city and I think it will be the perfect setting to send us all off to the Olympics,” White added.

The Davis and White families lived near each other in the Detroit area when the children were growing up. White started skating at the age of three, and Davis at five; they were teamed up by coach Seth Chafitz, with whom they would continue to work for many years, until they switched to Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband in Canton, Michigan. They still train in Canton under the tutelage of Zoueva, representing the Arctic Figure Skating Club and the Detroit Skating Club.

Both skaters are students at the University of Michigan, and both are well-spoken and friendly. Davis, in particular, has a wickedly sly sense of humor. The two come across like the closest of siblings, in perfect harmony.

White competed in singles as well as dance until 2006. He is the 2004 U.S. novice bronze medalist, and finished ninth as a junior in 2006. He also played AAA hockey for the Honeybaked Hockey Club, winning a state championship. The risk of injury – a broken ankle caused Davis and White to miss the 2005 U.S. championships – forced White to focus exclusively on ice dance after 2006.

Davis and White won the bronze medal at the 2006 World Junior championships and turned senior the following season. They started winning international medals the next year and for the past four years most of them have been gold. They were undefeated in the 2010-2011 season following the Vancouver Olympics.

The team is known for dazzling speed and daring, complex lifts as well as supreme technique. White shared some insight into how they are able to gain their astonishing speed across the ice.

“For us, first, it’s being athletes, being very athletic,” he said. “Second, it’s having skated together for so long and being so in synch, using our momentum together. Third, it’s sort of a mindset. We want to show a big difference between us and the other teams.”

“We’re still trying to improve everything,” Davis added. “That’s what makes us true competitors. Every year after Worlds we look at what we have and where we are, and we want to make sure that the following year we take a step up. There’s no foreseeable top, we can always be faster, we can always be more expressive.”

The four-time U.S. champions started off this season with an emphatic win at Skate America in October. Next up this coming weekend is the NHK Trophy in Japan, presumably to be followed by the Grand Prix Final, which they have won three times. With only fifteen months until the Olympic Games in Sochi, Davis and White say they are already planning ahead.

“We’ve certainly thought a lot about the Olympic season, our music choices, talking about scheduling,” Davis said. “What we’re doing this year has an impact on next year. We want to set ourselves up well for the Olympic games. Charlie and I have always taken things one year at a time. We have a lot we want to accomplish this season.”

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