Pre-Nationals article

Excellence is routine for ice dancers Charlie White, Meryl Davis

There is silence. The ice is dead.
Charlie White has a sleepy blank expression, and Meryl Davis has dark, quiet eyes. It’s just another practice for the best ice-dancing team in the country.
The music starts, and they take off for 15 seconds, skating across the ice at the Arctic Edge Arena in Canton. Her eyes are sparkling now and his smile grows huge, a white blur of teeth, like a kid with a big, bushy head of hair looking at a bowl of ice cream.
What they do on the ice is amazing — like a flash of light striking a diamond, creating a sparkle of brilliance and magic — as they are spinning and twisting, locked together, looking like they are lost in love, but that’s all part of the act. Then, the music stops and — phfft! — it’s gone.
Dead silence again.
His smile melts and the magic leaves her eyes. It’s just another day at practice.
White glides across the ice with his hands on his hips, staring straight ahead, and Davis is sucking air, bent over, her hands on her knees, and they come back to the edge of the rink to talk to their coach, Marina Zoueva. White grabs a tissue and Davis reaches for a bottle of water and takes a sip.
It’s amazing how fast they can turn it on and off. 
It’s remarkable to see how much work goes into making something look so effortless.
Davis and White make eye contact, and you swear they are talking, but they aren’t. They have been together for more than 15 years, so words are unnecessary.
“Wow!” Zoueva said. “That was great.”
After a short break, they go out and do it again for about 15 seconds, working across the ice, perfecting every tiny movement and emotion. Another flash of brilliance. 
This is what makes them great, their work ethic and consistency. Year after year. Practice after practice. Turning on that magic in tiny bursts every day in a rink in Canton.
That is the story behind Davis and White’s four straight national titles and why they have a great shot to win their fifth this coming weekend in Omaha, Neb., an accomplishment that would put them up with the greats of the sport. Only four other ice-dance pairs have won five consecutive titles, including the Canton Arctic Edge’s Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto in 2004-08.
“It would put us in a caliber of skaters that we have looked up to our whole lives,” Davis said. “It is something that we would be honored to accomplish.”
The 2010 Olympic silver medalists and 2011 world champions, White and Davis were once the hunters at the national championships.
But now, they are the hunted.
“To go from the position of the hunter to the hunted, mentally, it’s something that you have to adjust to,” White said. “I think, at this point, we are really adjusted to it. We have the mind-set kind of locked down.”
Their biggest competition will likely come from Maia and Alex Shibutani, a brother and sister team who have finished second at nationals for the last two years and also train on the same rink in Canton.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting competition, in particular, for the ice-dance event because ice dance has become the front-running discipline in U.S. Figure Skating,” Davis said. “I think we have a lot of talent in all of the disciplines. But I think it’s quite clear that ice dance is the strongest discipline in the U.S. The talent is really deep. That’s an exciting, new way to look at it for anyone.”
White, 25, from Bloomfield Hills, and Davis, 26, from West Bloomfield, both attend Michigan. He is majoring in political science. She is majoring in cultural anthropology. They are the longest-running ice-dancing partnership in the history of U.S. figure skating.
“There is so much complexity to an ice-dance partnership,” Davis said. “You know, we are friends. We are coworkers. We have to pretend like we are in love on the ice. It’s a very dynamic relationship that has a lot of facets to it.”
But it works.
Known for their speed, athleticism and lifts, they have had to work at being artists on ice.
“We are still growing,” White said. “But it took a solid 10 to 12, even 13 years to really know ourselves and our bodies and the process to really feel your best when you take the ice when you compete.”
After all these years, they still love competing. They still love practicing. And they still get nervous for nationals.
“Our work ethic is really our greatest asset,” Davis said. “We don’t sit back on our laurels. We try to take it to the next level.”


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