2009 Nationals articles

Davis and White strike gold, take first senior title

BY JO-ANN BARNAS
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
CLEVELAND -- It was their moment, but it wasn't coming fast enough.
In the anxious minutes before Meryl Davis and Charlie White performed the free dance that gave them their first U.S. senior title Saturday, their coach noticed how White seemed a bit wound up.

"Charlie couldn't wait to go on the ice," Igor Shpilband said. "He was like, 'Why is it taking so long to give the marks to the first team?' "

The coach found it amusing -- and telling.
He knew they were ready.
Shpilband said: "I told them, 'OK. Just listen to the music, enjoy the moment. It's a great moment, so just take your time and connect to the music and go for it.'
"And that's what they did."

To their coach, Davis and White, who train at the Arctic Figure Skating Club in Canton, had been ready to step into the spotlight and become gold medalists even if five-time defending champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto had been able to compete at the championships.

Belbin and Agosto, who trained under Shpilband and Marina Zoueva until leaving the Canton club last spring, were forced to withdraw from the nationals two weeks ago because Agosto has an injured back.
"Even though they (won), their main competitors weren't there," Shpilband said. "It was against themselves in a way."

The final results at the Quicken Loans Arena certainly indicated that it was a one-team race. Davis and White entered Saturday night's free dance with a seven-point lead over eventual silver medalists Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club. They then widened the margin after their dramatic and sweeping performance to "Samson and Delilah." They scored 99.82 points for the free dance and finished with 201.68 total points.

"It's kind of surreal right now," said Davis, wearing a necklace that Belbin gave her for Christmas. "We said the other day that this is something we've been dreaming about for years. But it's still amazing."
White said: "It's a great feeling, and to be able to come out there and skate three great programs adds to it."

Samuelson and Bates, clearly the competition's second-best team after the original dance (and in just their second senior season), finished with 181.64 points.
Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre won their second straight U.S. bronze medal with 176.30 points.
The three top teams likely will be named to the U.S. world team that will compete at the world championships in late March.

Davis, 22, and White, 21, have skated together for almost 13 years. Their partnership is the longest of any current competitive dance team in the country.
They are sophomores at the University of Michigan.
"Charlie and I grew up basically 10 minutes away from each other," Davis said. "I think the main asset we have as adults is knowing each other so well."
Davis and White, who also represent the Detroit Skating Club, were U.S. silver medalists last year. As bronze medalists at last month's ISU Grand Prix final, Shpilband said he believes that the team could challenge for a medal at the world championships.

Samuelson and Bates, world junior champions last year, didn't perform their best free dance of the year Saturday night, but the team exhibited potential with innovative lifts and artistic flair.
"Coming out of the warm-up was a challenge for us," Bates said. "But even with waiting around, we went out there and did what we had to do. We went out there and felt comfortable."
Fourth place went to another promising team, brother and sister Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell of the Ann Arbor FSC. They placed fourth in the free dance and fourth overall.
The Hubbells made their senior debut at the nationals.
"I'm actually thrilled," Keiffer Hubbell said. "That's the cleanest we've skated. I don't think we stood out as the so-called junior team. I was happy how we fit in."
Trina Pratt and Chris Obzansky of the Arctic FSC finished seventh, and Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt of the Ann Arbor FSC were eighth.
Jennifer Wester and Daniil Baranstev of the Detroit SC withdrew before the free dance because Baranstev has a back injury, according to U.S. Figure Skating.
Contact JO-ANN BARNAS

articles from icenetwork: Shpilband says Davis, White ready for U.S. Title
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Davis, White win first U.S. dance title with ease


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