Detroit News Front Page!

Front page article from the hometown paper, the Detroit News. The article does a great job detailing their prospects in Spokane and Vancouver - enjoy!

Local ice dancers poised to make mark in Vancouver
Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

Canton -- The skating was done for the day, and the stretching and yoga began for Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the No. 1 ice dancers in the world.

Cheeks flushed and eyes bright, Davis and White talked with equal measures of ease and excitement about the next six weeks -- including the U.S. ice dancing championships, which start Thursday and end Saturday in Spokane, Wash., and the Winter Olympics next month in Vancouver, British Columbia -- for which they have prepared nearly their entire lives, in a sport of enormous speed and grace.

"I think that we definitely feel like we've put ourselves into a good position," said White, 22, of Bloomfield Hills. "It's just like a lot of things coming together, at a good time."

Said Davis, 23, of West Bloomfield: "To come out of Vancouver with an Olympic gold medal would be a dream. But we know how to go in and really expect what we can of ourselves. So it is sort of a stock answer, but we really can't control anything else."

Davis and White began skating together when they were 7 and 8 years old, and the two readily realize they may be poised to accomplish things of dreams.

There is conjecture Davis and White have a shot at becoming household names and the darlings of the Winter Games. For the first time in more than a generation, American eyes will not focus on a ladies figure skater, as the U.S. team fields a comparatively weak group while Asian skaters dominate.

Experts say the American pairs also are unlikely to compete for gold. And although the men are fielding perhaps the strongest trio since at least the 1980s, no American man has won the gold since 1988. If the men fail, that would leave ice dancers as perhaps the most likely to capture Americans' hearts.

And Davis and White are on an enormous hot streak. To say they are on a roll and confident at the perfect juncture of their careers may well be selling them short. If they finish first or second in Spokane, which a plethora of experts consider likely, could the two kids from Oakland County and the University of Michigan steal the show in Vancouver?

Facing their rivals

Since autumn, the reigning U.S. champions have won everything they have entered: the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the Rostelecom Cup in Russia, the NHK Trophy in Japan and the Grand Prix Final last month, also in Japan.

No American ice dancers had ever won the Grand Prix Final, not even Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who used to train with Davis and White at the Arctic Edge figure skating center in Canton.

Belbin, 25, and Agosto, 28, who are healthy, again, are Davis' and White's chief rivals in their defense of the U.S. title -- and Olympic gold.

"I think Davis and White could pull off what many would consider to be an upset, in Spokane," said Susan Wessling, editor in chief of International Figure Skating magazine. Although they are the defending champions and the Grand Prix Final winners, Belbin and Agosto are the most successful ice dance team in the history of U.S. figure skating. If I had to pick, I would give Davis and White a slight edge. Their original dance and free dance are both exceptional routines. It will be interesting to see how they hold up as they try to defend their title."

Due to injury, it has been two years since Davis and White competed against Belbin and Agosto.
The younger pair never has defeated the older.

"We were coming up and they were already doing really well on the international scene," White said. "So it was easy for us to look up to them, especially because they are great people and great competitors and work really hard. But before they left (the Arctic Edge), we were really nearing their level, and we were getting pretty competitive with them, towards the top."

If they can put Belbin and Agosto behind them, at the nationals, the young pair would have over-the-top confidence heading into Vancouver.

A Canadian pair, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who also train at the Arctic Edge and who captured the Canadian title last weekend, will be strong competitors. But with the Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin a question mark because of Shabalin's nearly chronic knee problems, there is an emerging sense the field is narrowing.

And, clearly, Davis and White seemed destined to be among the top contenders.

"Well, absolutely, in so far as they have had the best season ever," said their Russian coach Igor Shpilband as he waited for the competition in Spokane. "So far, they show the best results and noting but the best results in the season."

Fame may be calling

As they walk around campus in Ann Arbor, it is only in the past two weeks that Davis and White are garnering fame.

Both were enrolled last semester, but took this semester off to prepare for the Olympics. They are good students -- White entertains the thought of a career in law, and Davis, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Birmingham Groves High in 2005, is studying anthropology and Italian, and continuing to garner lots of A's.

For a decade and a half, it has been all about the work. But fame may beckon.

"I think that until the last two weeks we've never had any mention in like a school newspaper, even," Davis said. "So I guess we really are, like, unknown, so to speak."

Said White: "Yeah, definitely unknown. Just like in the past two weeks, people have been calling us and saying, 'Oh, my god. This is so exciting. I didn't realize, like, you guys went here.' And it's really cool to kind of watch people's reactions when it's like, 'Oh, there are athletes besides the football team here.' It's been kind of cool watching that."

And many experts think it is kind of cool watching them.

"Sometimes it is that special program or programs that push a team over the top, and Davis and White have that with their Indian-themed original dance -- to selections from 'Devdas,' " Wessling said, referring to a Hindi film. "When they are on, that program is pure magic.
"Their strengths, in my opinion, along with their lifts, are their speed, her flexibility and his amazing feet," she said.

For Davis, it is all a fairly straightforward affair.

"I think that the biggest thing for us is just going to be staying level-headed and doing what we know how to do," she said. "You know, at this point of the season, we're really confident with our programs, we know we're well-trained and we know we're ready. It's just going to be going in with the right mindset and staying confident."


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