Michigan Daily article

Olympic ice dancers prepare for World Skating Championships

Michele Narov
Daily Staff ReporterFebruary 10th, 2011

After skating their way to a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, ice dancing duo Charlie White and Meryl Davis are back for more.

Since last year’s Olympic games, the pair of University students has competed four times — in Japan, China, Washington and North Carolina — and won each contest. Though they are now back on campus, the team is rigorously preparing for more competitions.

White, 23, said he and Davis, 24, are competitive at this level because they are able to remain focused on their routines and what they should improve, rather than on winning.

“Figure skating obviously takes natural talent, but it’s a big mental game,” he said. “There’s very little margin for error.”

Next week, the pair is competing at the Four Continents Competition in Taiping City, Taiwan, but Davis said their biggest competition will be the World Figure Skating Championships at the end of March.

“We got second last year,” she said. “So we’re definitely trying to be on top of the podium this year.”

In preparation for the World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, the duo has reviewed their performance after each competition to make sure their skating skills are continuously progressing.

“We want to make sure we’re happy with what we put on the ice,” Davis said.

Their practice schedule, which Davis and White also had last season, involves about four hours of skating a day and an hour and a half of physical training off the ice. White said this intense preparation is necessary because it’s the only way to overcome nerves. But White said after dealing with the pressure of the Olympic games, he has become less nervous in subsequent competitions.

“I think having been through the stress and coming away unscathed, let alone with a silver medal, has given me a better grasp on how to deal with the rigors and trying not to worry too much about competition because I survived the biggest one,” he said.

Davis added that she doesn’t think their lives have altered greatly since the Olympics.

“The only thing that’s really changed is how people look at us,” she said. “People recognize us a bit more.”

But achieving their Olympic dream involved making some sacrifices. White said the biggest sacrifice has been their education.

“We both would have loved to graduate from U of M in four years, but obviously that’s just not attainable with our schedules,” he said.

Davis and White have junior standing as a result of each taking two courses a semester, though they aren't currently enrolled. Because of their difficult competition schedule this season, White said they might try to take online classes through the University’s Dearborn campus in the future since taking a full load of classes in Ann Arbor would be impossible to fit into their daily lives.

“We’re both looking forward to having careers once were done with skating in something else,” he said. “We don’t want to be left too far behind and to have to go back to school so little by little we’re chipping away.”

Davis said despite the grueling daily schedule, practice is fun because the duo is trying out new routines like a sensual tango.

“We’ve been exploring a different side of our skating,” she said.

Despite his current love for ice dancing, White said he didn’t always think he would make it to such a prestigious level of competitive skating. He began skating at age 3 and played hockey until it began to affect his posture. As a result, he took up ice dancing.

White said he realized what they could accomplish at age 18, when he and Davis began competing at the senior level — the highest skill level designated by the United States Figure Skating Association.

“We were competing against people that we had watched on the Olympics and idolized growing up, and suddenly we were on the same stage they were,” he said. “We would go to competitions, and I would compare myself to them, and I started to realize that we weren’t that far off.”

Though he has found success as an ice dancer, White said like many University students, he isn’t sure what his eventual career will be.

“I think law school might be in my future, but I’m still not sure,” he said. “I’m still figuring out what I want to do.”

Davis, an anthropology major and Italian minor, said she’s interested in working for a company like National Geographic or another a job that involves culture, travel and history.

“I have a broad array of interests that I hope to someday harness into a career,” she said.

While Davis and White have encountered difficulties balancing academics and competition, White said anything they had to sacrifice for ice dancing was worth the expense.

“We get to travel all over the world to beautiful destinations and meet amazing people,” he said. “I think it has broadened both of our lives so much.”

But while Davis and White have traveled around the world, White said they also enjoy spending time here.

“We just like to hang out and enjoy Ann Arbor,” White said. “We’ve been all over the world, and it’s one of our favorite places.”

“I love my life on campus,” Davis said.

White added though there are potential job opportunities nationally and internationally, it would take a very lucrative offer to convince him to leave the state.

“I look forward to staying in Michigan as long as I can,” he said. “Ann Arbor, Bloomfield, the city of Detroit, it’s all very special to us, and I think I’m going to try to stick around as long as I can.

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