March 18, 2008
Skating duo grew together; Davis, White soar in dance ranks
BY JO-ANN BARNAS
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
Theirs was a beginning filled with awkward moments, just as you'd expect from kids their age.
Meryl Davis was the quiet one -- so shy she rarely spoke more than two words at a time to her partner.
And Charlie White? He was the opposite of Davis -- so outgoing and self-assured that he decided in elementary school to take up ice dancing to "offset my hockey."
"I don't think I really started talking to Charlie until I was maybe 11," Davis said with a laugh. "By then we had been skating together for two years."
White said: "I remember I had no idea how to hold her hand. Our former coach, Seth (Chafetz), had to walk us through what a partnership was."
Davis and White, now 21 and 20, have completed almost a decade in ice dance together. And their partnership?
Sturdy as a couple of redwoods, if you ask their coaches.
Davis and White became the No. 2 team in the United States after winning the silver medal at nationals two months ago behind Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, their teammates at the Arctic Figure Skating Club.
The teams compete their compulsory dance beginning today at the world figure skating championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, along with another Canton-based team, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Belbin and Agosto, 2006 Olympic silver medalists, are expected to contend for their first world title after winning two bronzes and one silver medal in their previous three trips to worlds.
Virtue and Moir, the Canadian national champions who racked up 207.32 points in winning the Four Continents Championships last month, placed sixth at worlds last season -- one spot ahead of Davis and White.
White and Davis recorded a personal best score (in ISU events) of 199.45 in placing second behind Virtue and Moir at Four Continents.
In just their second full season together as a senior team, Davis and White have made the transition from juniors look easy. In 2006-07, they notched a pair of fourth-place finishes in their Grand Prix events before taking third at nationals.
This past season, although White's skating was briefly hindered by an ankle infection, the team placed fourth at State America. Then the skaters captured their first ISU senior Grand Prix medal -- a bronze -- at the Trophee Eric Bompard last fall in Paris.
Davis and White have climbed the levels of their sport without as much as a single argument.
"That's why they've been so successful; they're nice to each other," said Igor Shpilband, who coaches the pair with Marina Zoueva. "If there's tension in training, or when the intensity picks up, they manage to keep things light and with a sense of humor."
Among Davis and White's strengths is their skating ability. Though White performs with flair -- he's definitely the showman of the team -- he doesn't overshadow Davis. Her facial expressions are a highlight of the team's "Eleanor Rigby" free dance.
Although they're as close as brother and sister, Davis and White, who got their start at the Detroit Skating Club, laugh at their opposite personalities. Both students at the University of Michigan, they point to their classes: Davis is taking Italian and anthropology; White has French and argumentative writing.
"With so many artistic people and athletes, the competitive fire is what drives them into arguments," White said. "We've just clicked."
Contact JO-ANN BARNAS at 313-222-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.