2006 Junior Worlds

Not many new on-ice photos, so here are some off-ice photos from Virtue and Moir's and Pratt and Gilles' old site along with a bonus Pre-Junior Worlds article

Skaters are golden couple
National champs reaching for the top at Worlds
Special to The Detroit News

Linsay Olesak

BLOOMFIELD HILLS -- Junior dance pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White are hitting the ice daily to prepare for the 2006 U.S. Junior World Figure Skating championships.
Davis and White began this season earning two silver medals and three golds, including second place at the 2005 Grand Prix Final in Czech Republic and first place at the latest nationals in St. Louis, advancing them to the next stop -- Ljubljana, Slovenia, the host of the Junior World championship next month.

"Right now, they are one of the strongest junior teams in the world," said their coach, Igor Shpilband.

"They have got a lot of things to perfect but the skating skills they have are comparable to the top senior group."

At the 2006 nationals, the Oakland County pair performed their captivating free dance to "Sarabande" by Handel. Their original dance that included the Mambo and the Rhumba dances were performed to the "Ran Kan Kan -- En Los Pasos de mi Padre" by Tito Puente and "Un Bolero Por Favor" by Nana Mouskouri.

"We came back as our last year as juniors and won it," White said, recalling this past nationals as one of his greatest memories.

Davis, 19, of West Bloomfield Township is a newly minted graduate of Birmingham Groves High School. Her on-ice partner, White, 18, of Bloomfield Hills graduated from Bloomfield Hills Roeper.

"We have been taking it easy since nationals," Davis said as she unlaced her skates. "We are starting to build our stamina back up."

Both have been skating since they were 4.

"My mom taught me because she didn't want me to be embarrassed if I ever went skating with friends," White said. "Now, none of them will go skating with me."

The duo's original coach, Seth Chafetz, brewed the idea of the two skaters becoming a pair. White skated dance and Davis skated freestyle at the time, both at the Detroit Skating Club, where they are members. They practice mostly at a rink in Canton Township now.

Chafetz thought they would look good together and introduced them. One tryout later, they were an ice-dancing team.

Both skaters perform locally but also have traveled to exotic far-flung locales like Romania, Bulgaria and Montenegro to ply their craft

"We looked pretty good, so we stuck together," White said. "Nine years later, here we are. Everything just worked out exactly how you want a good dance team to work out."

The first year skating together, they competed in the 1998 Junior Olympics in Texas and placed second at the juvenile rank. Proving their technique, they moved through the ranks quickly and began competing at the junior level in 2002 against pairs generally older than them.

Davis and White qualified for their first junior world championship in 2004 after taking first place at the Midwestern Sectional and second at the U.S. Figure Skating championships. Performing in The Hague, Netherlands, the duo placed 13th, gaining a taste of the strength needed to stand tall on a world championship podium.

But because of an unexpected injury to White, they didn't get the opportunity to improve the following year.

It happened because White also plays travel hockey. During a tournament in Canada, he took a rough check and fell to the ice with a broken left ankle.

"All I could think was ... 'This is not good. It really hurts,' " White said, remembering the moment. "I watched all of our training go down the gutter."

White's injury disqualified the team from competing in the qualifying contests leading to nationals and the world championships.

After healing, White and Davis made a coaching change and began training under Shpilband and Marina Zoueva at the Arctic Edge in Canton Township.

Shpilband and Zoueva are a well-known Russian pair who also coach Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, silver medalists at the 2005 Senior World Championships and 2006 Olympic ice-dancing competitors.

"They suit each other very well," Shpilband said. "It's always very good when you can see the man leading the girl. They look connected that way."

Davis said that people always told her that she was going to have to slow down with school and graduate a year later, but neither of them let skating affect their academics.

The duo's mothers, Cheryl Davis and Jacqui White, agreed that education has been a priority throughout their children's training.

After receiving diplomas, both skaters agreed to take a year off of school but plan to attend the University of Michigan in the fall. White plans to take classes in law and business and Davis has been influenced by her early travels to major in anthropology and international relations.

But for now, most of their time is spent on the ice, practicing synchronized footwork and brushing up on their technical skills before the junior world championships in March.

One change will happen after the current skating season comes to an end. The team will move up and compete in the senior division. Davis said they are prepared for the challenge.

"We will see how far it goes," White said. "If it lives its life out, then I think we will be able to recognize it but as of now, we have no foreseeable end."

Davis' faves

Food: Steak and fruits

Movies: "The Notebook," "Troy"

Books: Fantasies

Music: Classical, new rock alternative

Hobby: None, except skating

Pets: Her dog, Coach

Detroit News research

White's faves

Food: "Meatza" pizza

Movie: "Airplane"

Books: Fantasies

Music: Classical, alternative, basically everything

Hobby: Playing violin

Pets: His dog, Rocco, and two cats, Scruffy and Snow