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2010-03-08

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Wolverine ice dancers reflect on 'incredible' run at Olympics

Sam Wolson/Daily
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By Stephanie Steinberg, Daily News Editor
Published March 6, 2010

It’s not every day that University President Mary Sue Coleman calls students on their cell phones.

But after University students and ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis won silver medals in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games last month, Coleman did just that.

“I was just listening to my voicemails after the free dance, and I came upon one that said, ‘Oh, hi Meryl, this is Mary Sue Coleman,’ and I was a little shocked but very excited and honored,” Davis said in an interview last week.

Coleman wasn’t the only one on campus rooting for Davis and White. Thousands of students watched the pair perform on television and offered support through e-mails, texts and Facebook statuses. Davis said she even got e-mails of encouragement from professors she had during her freshman year.

And the support didn’t stop at students and professors. Before the pair took off for Vancouver, Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson, Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein and Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez signed a large University of Michigan flag and gave it to Davis and White to take to the games for good luck.

In Vancouver, Davis and White scored a 215.74 across their three dances — falling a few points shy of Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won the gold with a total score of 221.57 points.

In an interview after returning from the Olympics, Davis and White said that all the support they received throughout their career was a big part of the reason they skated so well at the games.

“To all the people that have helped us over the years — our coaches and parents — it just means so much,” White said.

Though she had dreamed about competing in the Olympics since she began skating at the age of five, Davis said the games exceeded all her expectations.

“As an athlete, you have a long time to kind of wonder what the Olympics might be like and kind of build up the experience in your head,” Davis said. “But for us, it was just an incredible experience, and it was everything we hoped for.”

Coming into the competition, many were optimistic that the two skaters would take the gold — which would have been the first time that a pair from the United States came out on top in ice dancing at the Olympics.

But White said the two couldn’t be more pleased with their silver medals.

“We put in so much time and effort over the 13 years we’ve been together,” he said. “To be able to skate so well at the Olympics and come away with a silver medal was very satisfying.”

Davis emphatically agreed with White.

“The Olympics is such a pinnacle of our sport, and it only comes every four years,” she said. “So in order to be true you really don’t want to make any mistakes. You want to skate your best, and for us we definitely did that, and we came away not only proud of our silver medals, but proud of the way we skated.”

During their time at the Olympics, the pair got the chance to skate to some pop culture favorites. For the Exhibition portion of the competition, they performed to a cover of Michael Jackson’s "Billie Jean." Their free dance was to music from musical “Phantom of the Opera” and for their original dance, the two skated to a medley of Indian songs.

When asked which was his favorite performance, White likened the dances to the pair’s “children” and said he couldn’t choose.

“Honestly, I can’t pick one because they were all so good that without any one of them, you know, it might not have happened the way it did,” he said.

The pair’s coaches, Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, also trained the Canadian pair that claimed gold in Vancouver, Virtue and Moir. Both pairs have been training with each other for the last five years.

While Virtue and Moir came out in first, there are no harsh feelings between the ice dancers, Davis and White said.