|Meryl Davis and Charlie White pose after Davis won the Sportswoman of the Year award (team) during the Women's Sports Foundation's 35th Annual Salute to Women in Sports awards, at Cipriani Wall Street on Oct. 15, 2014 in New York City.|
NEW YORK -- Meryl Davis and Charlie White have experienced many firsts in their career together: first U.S. ice dancers to win a world championship, first ice dancers to six U.S. championship titles and first U.S. ice dancers to earn Olympic gold — among others.
But somehow, 17 years into their partnership together, they have not run out of firsts. Monday morning marked the first time the 2014 Olympic champions opened New York’s famed The Rink at Rockefeller Center for the skating season. Two days later, Davis was crowned Sportswoman of the Year in the team category by the Women’s Sports Foundation for the first time.
Davis and White kicked the 2014-15 Rockefeller Center season off with an exhibition program to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2,” which they also performed at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games in February, on NBC’s “TODAY” show before young skaters from Figure Skating in Harlem and Ice Theatre of New York joined them on the ice.
The performance marked the beginning of a whirlwind season for the duo, where Davis will only spend one weekend at home in Michigan before the new year (White will spend two). As busy as they remain, their upcoming schedule is a far stretch from the winter seasons they are used to, filled with training and competing.
“We would not be here, that’s for sure,” Davis said when asked what they would be doing at the time of their Rockefeller Center interview had they not decided to sit out the 2014-15 competitive skating season (another first).
“We would have just finished some run-throughs for the day, have another three hours to skate probably, then we’d work out, and then because it’s not an Olympic year we’re be going to school,” she said around 9:15 a.m. Monday morning.
“It’s so incredibly different,” White adds. “That’s not to say that the training’s not enjoyable. We do miss working really hard at being in really great shape. But at the same time these opportunities are things that we’re so happy to be able to take advantage of.”
After a busy few days in the Big Apple, Davis was off to Los Angeles and White was headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he recently bought a house with fiancé and Olympic silver medalist ice dancer Tanith Belbin, whom he will wed in April. One week later, the pair will head to the first event of figure skating’s grand prix season, 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America in Chicago.
Davis and White are the four-time reigning Skate America champions, but will watch from the stands as new champions are crowned this year.
“It’ll be interesting,” White said. “We’ll have two of the top American teams there competing, so we’ll be cheering for both of them. I lived with both Evan (Bates, who competes with Madison Chock) and Alex (Shibutani, who skates with sister Maia). It’ll be fun to be able to watch and cheer. Of course I think we’ll be nervous, too, and it’s going to be weird. It’s going to be odd and something we can’t even predict how we feel, but we’re looking forward to it nonetheless.”
The thought of sitting in the stands is a jarring change for the longest-lasting U.S. ice dance team, which has been going strong through 17 years, 16 grand prix wins, four world championship medals and three Olympic medals.
“Even if we did do a show like this,” White said after skating at Rockefeller Center, “we’d be on a plane immediately after and not be able to spend time with these kids and not answer your questions and take the time to slow down and enjoy what we’re doing.”
Davis noted that, especially over the past two seasons, her days were filled with training and skating, and when at home she would focus on resting and recovery. She would often be too tired to dive into any of her other aspirations or passions. Since Sochi (and winning “Dancing with the Stars”), she has spent her time playing tennis and doing yoga. Of course those hobbies might be put on hold during her hectic schedule this season.
Beginning in December, Davis and White will headline Stars on Ice tours in both the U.S. and Japan. They will also appear in four shows with Disson Skating, which combines musical acts with figure skating, or, in the case of this year’s “Shall We Dance on Ice,” ballroom dancing with ice dancing.
Davis and White will show off their many talents on the one-night show, switching off between skating with each other and dancing with their “Dancing with the Stars” partners Sharna Burgess and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. The cast includes seven other ice dance couples — Belbin and partner Ben Agosto among them — and former DWTS pros Dmitry Chaplin, Chelsie Hightower and Louis van Amstel.
“Coming off another successful ice dancing season with so many great ice dancers available to do a show it seemed like a great time to be able to put everyone together,” White said. “The cast itself is pretty ridiculously amazing, honestly. It’s an honor for us to be a part of it and we’re hoping to put some cool stuff together.”
Burgess, who finished fifth on the reality competition show with White in the spring, recently choreographed an exhibition program for Davis and White that they will use in some of their shows this fall.
“We’re kind of exploring different styles of movement that we hadn’t gotten to do before and I think a lot of that is a result of our experience on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ which is great,” Davis said. “We’re having a blast.”
Davis and White will also use their “off” season to give back in ways they were not able to before — by appearing in Kristi Yamaguchi’s Golden Moment show to support early childhood literacy and Scott Hamilton’s An Evening with Scott Hamilton & Friends Ice Show, which benefits cancer research and care.
And they have continued to give back to their native Detroit. They will serve as the grand marshals at this year’s Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade and recently visited the Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where White attended school for 13 years.
“It was very special,” White said of the visit. “My school played a huge role in my philosophy on life and I wouldn’t be where I am without it. To be able to go back and be welcomed so warmly is very meaningful.”