Local article by The Oakland Press

Meryl Davis, Charlie White continue Oakland County's legacy at Olympics

Friday, January 29, 2010

By PAT CAPUTO Of The Oakland Press

The difference between the Olympic Games and other sporting ventures is sheer drama.

Not the kind Hollywood makes up in a goofy script.

The real type that can’t be simulated.

The Olympics are not necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but they can be. Often they boil down to a few minutes — or even a precious few seconds. Participants not only have to be spectacular to claim Olympic gold, but virtually mistake-free under intense glare.

And the Olympics are not just about individuals or teams competing, but also representing their respective countries. How often have we seen even our most hardened athletes weep as “The Star Spangled Banner” played? Sometimes, it’s been difficult to not cry along with them.

That’s most Olympics. Such feelings become even more extreme when somebody from Oakland County is involved.

Not just those who trained here, but those who were raised here. Attended our schools. Lived in our neighborhoods.

The kids next door. Or across the street. Or from the next block.

Hasn’t happened that often when the result is Olympic gold. But it could next month when Meryl Davis and Charlie White, an ice dancing team, compete in Vancouver.

They are the two-time defending U.S. national champions, having beaten Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto — the 2006 Olympic silver medalists and their former training partners — for the first time last weekend at the U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash.

Davis was raised in West Bloomfield, White in Bloomfield Hills. Both were born in Royal Oak. Each is a student at the University of Michigan. They train in Canton, but have trained much of their careers in Oakland County.

Ice dance is not a sport in which the U.S. has traditionally excelled during the Olympic Games. The silver medal by Belbin and Agosto was just the second time the U.S. medaled in the sport, the first since its Olympic debut in 1976. No American ice dance team has ever won an Olympic gold medal. Davis and White are going for history. But they have a good chance, having performed well recently at the international level.

And they are Oakland County’s own. Figure skating in this county has a long tradition of stars who have come here to train, primarily at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Township or Onyx in Rochester, but this is different.

Belbin was born in Canada and Agosto is from Chicago.

Tara Lipinski, who captured the women’s gold medal in the 1998 in Nagano, trained at the Detroit Skate Club, but she was born and raised near Philadelphia. Todd Eldredge, several times the U.S. men’s champion, also trained in this area, but he is from Massachusetts.

Nicole Bobek and Alissa Czisny are among other past U.S. women’s champions who trained here, but are from other parts of the country.

Davis and White are about as local as it gets. And it’s not unlike past stories that have kept us on the edge our seats during the Olympics.

Like when swimmer Peter Vanderkaay from Rochester Hills brought back gold medals from the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games as a teammate of Michael Phelps on relays, as well as bronze individually.

We remember seeing Hazel Park’s Steve Fraser winning gold in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

There was never more high drama when Micki King, who learned to swim at the YMCA in Downtown Pontiac, broke her wrist on her ninth dive in the 1968 Olympics, knocking her off the medal podium. Heartbreak became utter joy when, four years later, King won the gold medal.

Like King, Hayes Jones attended Pontiac Central. In 1964, during what was golden era of track and field in this country, he won the 110-meter hurdles at the Tokyo games.

They were all special stories, inspiring in their own way.

For Davis and White, it’s a unique togetherness. They have been a team for 13 years, since they were little kids, and there was a time when it didn’t seem possible they could come this far. But unlike other ice dance couples, who tend to change partners at the first sign of adversity, they have persevered.

Sure. Everybody around here will be watching especially close when they take the ice in Vancouver next month.

Our hearts will be racing. Our fingers will be crossed.

It’ll be another great Oakland County Olympic moment. They don’t happen that often, you know.

Guess that’s what makes them especially sweet when they do.

Pat Caputo is a senior sports reporter and a columnist for The Oakland Press. Contact him at pat.caputo@oakpress.com and read his blog at theoaklandpress.com.

Canton Pep Rally

Canton To Host Olympic Ice-Dancing Team
Pep Rally and Send Off

Tuesday, February 2
5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., Summit on the Park

The Canton Community is invited to participate in a ceremonial pep rally and send-off to honor the American Ice-Dancing Team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White and the Canadian Team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as they depart to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This FREE event will celebrate the achievements of these two ice-dancing teams who have spent months training in their quest for Olympic gold at Canton's Arctic Edge Arena.
Maia and Alex Shibutani, U.S. Junior Gold Medalists who train as well at Arctic Edge Arena will also be in attendance.
For more information on Canton's special Olympic Send Off Celebration, call 734/394-5460.

Vanity Fair article

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Watch: Ice Dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White

“The American public is fascinated with dance right now,” adds White, “We’re capitalizing on that movement.”

The team packs their programs with innovative elements and chooses accessible songs. For instance, when selecting the requisite folk music for their original program, Davis and White seized theSlumdog Millionaire moment and chose traditional Indian folk music. The unconventional decision worked. At the International Skate Union’s Grand Prix final in December, the Indian-inspired original dance swept the competition. The YouTube clip got 240,000 hits.

Last weekend, that same dance helped them beat the most successful U.S. ice-dancing team ever, their former training partners and rink-mates, Tanith Belbin, 25, and Ben Agosto, 27.

Vancouver is the next stop for Davis and White’s program, which also includes a free dance to an Andrew Lloyd Webber medley. They will compete alongside Belbin and Agosto. Both teams are favored to medal, although in what order is anyone’s guess. Because of their age gap and various injuries, the pairs have rarely competed against each other. One might suspect a rivalry between them, but it sounds more like camaraderie.

“In a lot of ways it’s comforting to compete against people you know,” says Davis, discussing Belbin and Agosto as well as the leading Canadian ice-dancing team Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. “But, yes, it’s strange to try to beat your best friends.”

White adds, “When you’re out on the ice, you’re competing against yourself. You’re trying to prove to the judges that you’re the best. So when you’re off the ice, it’s easy to be friendly.” (The fact that Belbin and Agosto are retiring may add to this good-natured feeling.)

Davis and White are new on the international circuit, but they’ve been skating together for 14 years. That’s longer than any other U.S. team. When the pair first hit the ice, he was eight years old and she was nine. White recalls, “At that age, you don’t know what to do with someone of the opposite sex. You especially don’t know how to dance with them. It took awhile for us to be able to look at each other while we were skating.”

Now they’re in step, even attending the University of Michigan together.

“We took a year off after high school because we were really burned out, but it really wasn’t us to just focus on one thing,” says Davis, “Now that we’re living on campus and attending classes, we’re so much happier. It’s really enhanced our career and who we are as athletes.”

Davis and White have interests outside their sport, too, a rarity among elite athletes. White is a big hockey fan. He’s hoping to meet some of his favorite players in the Olympic village. Davis is a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, although she concedes that she goes to bed when most of her friends are going out.

“Our close friends understand,” says White.

“I don’t think we’re party animals anyway,” says Davis, laughing.

At least not off the ice.

Radio Interview and 5 fun facts

Meryl and Charlie talk on a local radio show after their win in Spokane. You can also download the audio HERE.

Also 5 Fun Facts about M & C from nbcolympics

mgoblue.com article

Red, White, Maize & Blue: U-M Students Go for Gold in Vancouver

Meryl Davis and Charlie White
Meryl Davis and Charlie White

Jan. 25, 2010

By Joanne C. Gerstner

Officially, ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White represent the United States in big competitions such as the World Championships or the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (Feb. 12-28).

But they're actually Wolverines being a bit undercover. White and Davis, both native Metro Detroiters, are University of Michigan students and die-hard Wolverine sports fans.

They're about to become very famous, as they head into the Olympics as the No. 1-ranked ice dancers in the world. White, a sophomore who has not chosen a major yet, and Davis, a junior in cultural anthropology, could become the most famous Michigan students in the Olympics since star swimmer Michael Phelps.

After clinching an Olympic berth by winning the U.S. National Championships in Spokane, Wash., they are now the two-time defending U.S. champions, and have received a lot of TV airtime in the run up to the 2010 Olympics. White and Davis have been skating at their best this season, and hope to peak in Vancouver.

They have a slew of skating fans, and could become household names like Phelps if they win gold at the Olympics.

"We love being here at Michigan, it's been great," said White, who like Davis, lives on campus. "I've always been a crazy, huge, big U-M fan. HUGE. I love football, basketball, hockey, all of it. There was nowhere else I really wanted to go to school but here."

Meryl Davis and Charlie White

The pair trains in Canton at the Arctic Edge Arena. They've been skating together since 1997, winning titles at every level along the way. They're close friends, like a cool brother-and-sister pair, able to be supportive and also sarcastic at the same time with each other.

They've been taking around two classes per semester, a load that's manageable with a skating career that takes them around the world. Check out their frequent flier miles from the past few months: a trip to Tokyo, Japan, for the ISU Grand Prix; before that, two trips to Russia and one to Germany for competitions; and to start the season, a long-distance haul to Nagano, Japan.

They're taking a pause from their studies this semester, with good reason. They had the U.S. Championships in January, the Olympics in February, and the World Championships in March. In other words: Spokane, Vancouver, then Turin, Italy. It's too hard to impress finicky skating judges and professors at the same time.

Ice dance is a special form of figure skating, combining athletic moves with the grace of Gene Kelly's dancing. There are no jumps, such as the axels seen in singles or pairs skating. Ice dance has lifts, quick moving spins (called "twizzles"), intricate footwork, and complex choreography to help tell the story of the music. White and Davis are performing to Indian folk music in their original dance (also called the short program), and selections from "Phantom of the Opera" in their free skate.

White and Davis have a few factors that set them apart as the world's best right now:

» They perform very close together, which raises the difficulty level and produces a strong visual line. One mistake could bring both of them down to the ice.
» Their lifts are complex and unique, adding excitement and more than a bit of danger to the moves.
» They skate very quickly and powerfully, again making their complicated footwork even more intricate to pull off.

"We've been working really hard to make ourselves be the best this season," Davis, 23, said. "We really didn't need to improve on any one thing in particular. We put in a lot of hard work coming into this to make it the best we could, and it's paid off pretty well so far. We couldn't ask for a better season so far, but there is a long way to go."

White and Davis have won all of their competitions this season, heading into the Olympic Games.

Despite their hectic lives, White and Davis have managed to find some normalcy as students. They walk around campus unnoticed -- something that would never happen if they were in an ice rink. Davis joined Michigan's Iota chapter of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and has season tickets for football. White hangs out with friends, goes to social events, and relishes his time being an average guy.

Meryl and her sorority sisters on bid day.

"It's all worked out really well for us, school is a place for us to be ourselves," Davis, who hails from West Bloomfield, said. "It's a good thing for us to have that balance in our lives. We're not all just about skating and that world. We can come here, study, be around our friends, and be part of what Michigan has to offer. It's really helped us stay grounded."

White, 22, has been frequently spotted wearing his signature block "M" hat when off the ice, has Michigan floor mats in his car, and even showed off a U-M sweatshirt on national TV moments before they officially won the 2009 U.S. title. He grew up a Wolverines fan, watching football games on TV every Saturday with his U-M alumnus dad.

Charlie and his U-M housemates, including Evan Bates (top right).

"They were so cute when Charlie was small," White's mom, Jackie, said. "He'd put on his Michigan jersey and sit with his dad to see the game. It was their tradition, so I'm not surprised he's at Michigan now. That's all he wanted was to go to Michigan."

White and Davis count themselves as true-blue Americans, but if given the chance, will also scream "Go Blue!"
The best scenario for White would be to win the gold medal in Vancouver, hear the National Anthem played, and then sneak on his U-M hat for the pictures.

"That would be the most amazing thing ever," said White, a native of Bloomfield Hills. "Winning a gold for the U.S. and being able to give Michigan a shout-out too. U-M isn't known for ice dancing, but I think we can change that."

NOTE: In a surprise finish at the U.S. National Championships Saturday afternoon (Jan. 23), another pair of University of Michigan students earned the third and final spot on the U.S. ice dancing Olympic team. With their third-place finish at nationals, Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates will be joining Davis and White, along with Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, in Vancouver.

2010 Nationals (and other) videos

OD Exhibition (NBC)-High quality

Nationals - Free Dance and gala

Meryl and Charlie successfully defend their title to become the 2010 National Champions!!!

Thanks to the awesome Jennifer for her coverage from the event! Complete albums HERE and HERE.

More photos HERE. Thanks to Jennifer!