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Life after the Olympics

Charlie and Tanith White

Life after the Olympics

From the February, 2016 issue
At Cafe Zola, the waiter bringing coffee smiles at the attractive young couple but doesn't recognize either Charlie White, 2014 Olympic gold medalist in ice dancing, or Tanith Belbin White, who took silver in the same event in 2006 and now does commentary for NBC Sports. They don't mind. Charlie, twenty-eight, says he is recognized mainly when in the company of Meryl Davis, his Olympic partner.

"There's a lot of 'Oh, my God, you're Meryl Davis,'" he says, his voice rising in mock excitement, "and ... and? ... Charlie White!"

On this January day he is incognito, sort of. He laughs and gestures at his head. His distinctive topping of gold curls, which reporters have compared to a Disney prince's, is darker than in the Olympic photos and clamped under a headband. He's also wearing glasses. Tanith, too, has turned down the glamour since her days on the ice; her tawny hair is styled simply, her eye makeup subtle. A shimmering smart watch is the only clue of her high-powered life. Charlie, the more talkative of the two, keeps an arm draped over her shoulders.

They married last April and live in a house they renovated on the west side. But they look blank when asked how they'll be celebrating on Valentine's Day. "I think we'll have to check if we're even together on Valentine's Day," says Tanith. "I think Charlie will be in Switzerland." She is about to leave for Nebraska to cover an Olympic-qualifying volleyball tournament for NBC; soon after, they're off to St. Paul to broadcast the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. When in town, Tanith coaches skaters at the Arctic Edge ice center in Canton, where she and Charlie did most of their training.

Dizzying as those schedules may seem, to a couple who have trained intensively since childhood, this is a relatively tranquil time. After Charlie and Meryl Davis took gold in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, each spent several weeks competing on Dancing with the Stars with different partners. Charlie does not speak with much fondness about the experience, in which he and his partner did well but slipped behind Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who took first. He dislikes being recognized as a "reality show star" and refers obliquely to the pressure competitors felt "on and off the ice to give interviews in a certain way ... that certainly didn't jibe with what I was comfortable with as an athlete."

But even Olympic gold medalists can't be too choosy. The public isn't in love with ice skating as it was even a decade ago, when Michelle Kwan earned millions of dollars a year in endorsement deals. "In a lot of ways, figure skating used to live in the domain that's now taken by reality television," Charlie reflects. "The [TV] personalities are kind of larger than life ... The sport's sort of struggled to find new ways to interact with fans."

He and Davis are not currently competing, but haven't ruled out returning for the Winter Olympics in 2018. And they remain close personally--she was a bridesmaid at Charlie and Tanith's wedding. (Tanith's skating partner, Benjamin Agosto, was master of ceremonies.)

They've been together for seven years. Though family and other elite skaters knew about their relationship, they were discreet in public to protect the aura of romance in their on-ice partnerships. "A lot of it is like acting," Charlie explains. "A lot of the stories you're telling ... you want people to believe you're in love." 

In fact, he and Davis were never romantically involved, nor were Tanith and Agosto. "A lot of time partners do end up dating each other, and sometimes it goes well--but often it doesn't," Charlie says. "In a sense, both of us were lucky that we never dated our partners."

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The future couple met as young teens at the Arctic Edge. "She was the most beautiful girl at the rink!" Charlie recalls, and quickly adds, "She still is."

Though both were tapped early as potential stars, they were never paired together; Tanith, now five-foot-six, was considered too tall for Charlie, who is five-foot-nine. He was born in Royal Oak and grew up in Bloomfield Hills; she moved to Canton from Quebec to train, later becoming a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen.

Their relationship endured the strain of competing against each other in the 2010 Olympics, where Charlie's pair finished second, Tanith's fourth. "Our senses of humor bonded us," Tanith says.

Both say that growing up in competition helped them develop professional attitudes. That neither is competing now, Tanith says, reinforces "the other aspects of your life that bring you joy." This includes the hours they spend playing with their dogs, sometimes in the Arb; dining out in Ann Arbor; and, recently, taking a cooking class at Sur La Table, one of their wedding gifts from Meryl Davis. 

Charlie attended the University of Michigan, majoring in political science. He now skates in exhibitions worldwide. Tanith has taken online courses with a communications major at Eastern and U-M Dearborn. She's currently preparing for broadcasting at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Charlie, who played high school hockey, has been known to occasionally drop in at the Cube in Ann Arbor for pickup games. Apart from that, it isn't easy to find them on the ice around town. "Right now, it's hard for us to disassociate [recreational] skating from work," says Tanith.

How Olympian Meryl Davis Stays Fit

By Kristyn Burtt, Lifescript Entertainment Editor
Published February 23, 2016


Meryl Davis hasn’t slowed down since she won the 2014 Olympic gold medal in ice dancing with partner Charlie White. Find out how she makes her health a priority despite her busy schedule…Ice dancerMeryl Davis is still riding high from her 2014 Olympic win with partner Charlie White. She followed up her gold medal with a Mirror Ball Trophy on Season 18 of “Dancing With the Stars” with partner Maks Chmerkovskiy.

Related Quiz: What’s Your Fitness Style?

She and White have maintained a high-profile career by performing on the pro skating circuit. They recently starred in the “Colgate Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular,” which featured other top athletes, from three-time world champion gymnast Simone Biles to 1992 Olympic gold medalist figure skaterKristi Yamaguchi.

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“It’s exciting to have two different sports combined. I think it really makes for a dynamic show,” Davis says. “Skating and gymnastics certainly have some similarities, but the discrepancies make for an exciting show from the audience’s perspective.”

In this exclusive interview with Lifescript, the 29-year-old Olympian gives us the scoop on how she stays fit on the road, the restaurant she indulges in and the life lessons that her sport taught her.

As an elite athlete, how do you eat healthfully when you are touring and traveling? 
We did a lot of Cheesecake Factory on my first skating tour. [She laughs.]

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You tend to gravitate towards the fast, easy food and that’s OK as long as you know how to balance it out. I think when you’re on tour with a good group of people, it’s easy to keep going in the right direction.

How do you stay in shape now that you aren’t competing? 
Running has been my go-to since we haven’t competed since the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

I did a lot of weight lifting in the gym prior to competition, but getting outside and getting active and having that experience for myself versus for skating has been really enjoyable – to just work out for the sake of working out.

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I love working out. I feel better about life and myself in general when I work out. When I don’t work out for a couple of days, I feel myself getting a little lazy. I don’t want to fall into that trap.

Who was your mentor growing up – in the skating world and outside of the skating world? 
My mom was always my mentor. She had the most amazing perspective and she was always there for me. She and my dad are the most supportive parents without being overbearing, which I’ve learned is an art. It’s hard to achieve that and I can’t thank my parents enough for being there for me – on and off the ice.

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In terms of a skater, I always looked up to Michelle Kwan. She’s not only an incredible athlete and an incredible performer, but also an amazing person. She’s such a kind soul.

What advice do you give to young athletes? 
As an Olympian, you really take on a certain responsibility as a role model – and you have to.

Charlie and I take that responsibility very seriously. Whether it’s respect for yourself, respect for your body … as an athlete you have to respect the competitors around you. Having learned those lessons in sport, I feel it’s important to communicate those lessons to people who are out of the sport as well.

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What has competing on such a high level taught you about real life? 
Charlie always puts this so well.

He says, “While you are competing against other people, the goal is to perform at your best. Regardless of whether you are getting along with your competitor, when you are on the ice, any sort of negative energy is only negatively affecting you.”

You are out there to be the best that you can be and I think that really lends itself towards friendly competition.

When you focus so much on other people, you are wasting time you could be investing in bettering yourself. I think that’s a great lesson that translates to real life.

The “Colgate Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular” will air again Saturday, March 5 on ABC.

For more expert advice or information, visit Lifescript’s Diet & Fitness Center

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