MD

The Statement

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Advertise with us »

A golden opportunity: Charlie White, Meryl Davis and their quest for the U.S.'s first Olympic gold in ice dancing

BY RYAN A. PODGES
Daily Sports Writer
Published February 8, 2010

After suggesting and then rejecting several analogies to help describe the dynamic between them, Davis joked that she wishes “ice dancing partners” would be a Facebook relationship status.

“We’ve gotten really lucky,” Davis said. “We’ve been together since we were eight, so as opposed to a team that comes together at age 13, 16 or 18, there’s been no awkward moments between us where we thought, ‘Uh-oh, maybe I like them,’ or ‘Wow, they’re really bossy.’ ”

Anyone who watches one of their skating programs would think the two were madly in love. Their legs swish in unison, their hips sway in harmony and they anticipate each other’s movements while making flawless flips, twirls and spins. Their body language and facial expressions show a sense of emotional connection and passion that has impressed judges and audiences all over the world.

But spend an afternoon with them at their home training rink, Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Mich., and it’s clear how the energy between them is created. While many who have watched them dance wonder if their passion together on the ice is a product of a romantic relationship, the two maintain that has never been the case. What you see during their programs is nothing more than the product of hard work and showmanship painstakingly perfected over many years.

“It’s hard because we’re really close and we spend so much time together, but there is no romantic connection despite having to portray one on the ice,” Davis said. “It’s not a brother-sister relationship, although sometimes it takes that form. It’s a working relationship and yet, it is a friendship.”

White agrees. He doesn’t see a need to assign roles or place a label on their relationship. To him, after years of experiencing large amounts of pressure, stress, exhaustion and lots of success together as a team, the most important thing to him has been the strong sense of trust and comfort they have in each other.

“I never have to worry about whether one day my partner is going to go nuts and just lose it or suddenly just quit, because these things absolutely happen,” he said. “I know we’re in this for each other and not for ourselves which I can see isn’t something all teams can say.”

As far as practicing their “romance” on the ice, that’s something that has become almost second nature. Davis and White can be skating around the rink carefree and joking with friends one second, and the next second be in each other’s arms staring intimately into the other’s eyes as if they were the only two people in the world. In a typical practice session, they snap in and out of passionate gazes dozens of times. Both say it’s just a matter of discipline.

“It’s not hard anymore for us to just switch on and off the emotion and romance we need to display on the ice,” White said.

“We can get to that point today really fast because when you’re inches away from someone else’s face it’s hard not to be completely focused on what they are doing,” Davis adds. “We’ve learned not to spend time worrying about our connection because we’ve been together so long we have amazing trust in each other.”

Despite being one of the sport’s top teams, Davis and White remain relatively unknown to those outside the ice-dancing world and try their best to maintain a balance in life away from the ice. Davis is a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and White is an avid hockey fan. It’s difficult, though, to deny that their ice dancing careers have become a greater priority recently. Neither Davis nor White is taking classes this semester, choosing instead to dedicate their time and energy to training. And in the last four years, the only time they spent more than three weeks away from the ice was to give White time to heal from an ankle injury.

When it comes to preparing for competitions, Davis, White and their Russian coaches, Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva, don’t let a single detail of their program go unscrutinized. Just to stay in shape, the team skates a minimum of four hours a day. They review films of previous competitions and practices and even attend ballet classes.

But Davis and White see themselves as more than just ice dancers. They are actors, really, telling a story and drawing their audience into a particular scene. Part of the challenge each ice dancer faces is captivating the audience with their performance.