The American ice dance team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the silver medal at the Olympics in 2010, but have captured two out of the last three World Championship titles against rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Here the duo talks about how they met nearly two decades ago and their ongoing pursuit of the Olympic gold.
NBC Olympics: It was 16 years ago that the two of you first met. Can you talk about how you first got together? Charlie White: Well, Meryl and myself started off skating at the Detroit Skating Club separately as single skaters. I was a little hockey player, also, so I had terrible posture. So I got into ice dance basically to correct that. Not to pursue a career or anything like that. And one day my coach, Seth Chafetz thought, "Hey, maybe we could just try skating with a girl to see how it goes." And I was just, like, "Okay." I didn't really know what that meant. You know, I was about eight years old. And so I had a few try outs and then I ended up trying out with Meryl once.
I was kind of annoyed because she actually had no prior ice dance knowledge. So I was pretty impatient with her. But we were actually a great match right away. I just remember, obviously, being embarrassed as an eight-year-old to have to skate with a girl. But we managed really well. And we picked up verything very quickly.
NBC Olympics: Fast forward to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. You ended up silver at your first-ever Games, losing to training partners Virtue/Moir of Canada. What was your take-away as a team from that? Meryl Davis: I think our Vancouver experience was really a very prideful experience for us. I think we had worked so hard up until that point and I think that being able to put out the performances that we did was an experience that kind of opened our eyes to our abilities to push ourselves further.
And so I think that it was a really important point in our careers where we could be proud of what we had done up until that point. But I think we really saw a lot of potential going forward. And so it was a really kind of exciting experience on top of being in Olympic games-- just to kind of look into our futures and see what we'd be capable of.
NBC Olympics: What were you feelings going into Vancouver? It was really a lot of “firsts” for you guys to handle and be chasing after an Olympic gold. White: Leading up to the Olympics, Meryl and I had never won a medal at Worlds before. Historically, it's difficult to get an Olympic medal if you've never even won a Worlds medal. But heading into the Games we were the national champions and we felt like we had a lot of momentum. Our focus was to really just skate our best and to take in the moment and doing what what we always do in practice. So we never really let ourselves fall into the emotion of the Games, which I think was part of the reason why we were able to skate so well. However, as soon as we finished it was sort of like a rush, like this dam broke and all the emotions poured in that we had sort of been keeping away. Your whole world opens up in that moment when you're on the podium and certainly for us it was very emotional, something that was very special and we’ll remember forever. Davis: It's funny because I've never thought of it like that before. But, you know, they say your life flashes before your eyes before you die. Well, when you finish your Olympic performance your journey also flashes before your eyes. [Laughs] White: Absolutely.
NBCOlympics: What was that like for the two of you and Virtue/Moir in Vancouver? There must have been a lot of emotions going on among you. White: Well, I think at the 2010 Games we certainly – as a group from Canton, Michigan – felt like we were going sort of as our own little mini-team. There was a lot of pressure and we really understood one another well and what we were going through as first time Olympians on the big stage. Being able to go with these people that we train with every day sort of brought a comfort level that maybe we wouldn't have had if we had felt alone. And I think it's something that helped both of us in the end to perform our best.
NBCOlympics: After the free dance, did you see each other backstage? How would that all go? Davis: I remember I was able to kind of hold in my emotions talking to everyone backstage. And for some reason it wasn't until I saw Scott and Tessa and it was kind of the four of us – they were being interviewed by a French-Canadian channel specifically, I remember – and Charlie and I walked over to congratulate them and I just lost it. Just because I think at that point in time in particular we understood each other so well and what we had been through. I think we weren't only proud of ourselves but I think we were really proud of them and what the four of us had been able to accomplish kind of in our own right. So I think that being able to share that experience with someone and another team really kind of brought out that emotion in me.
NBCOlympics: Now that's developed into what people would call one of the great all-time rivalries in figure skating. Can you explain how it's gone back and forth? And how you're looking towards Sochi now? White: Certainly since the last Olympics, Scott and Tessa and us have had a great rivalry. It's been awesome to be a part of. I think it's pushed us and our skating ability certainly to the brink. It's pushed the sport of ice dance. There’s been a lot of back and forth. [We won] worlds in their hometown, but at this point of our careers I think we're really just focused on ourselves and what we're doing to improve to set ourselves up for the Olympics and to win that gold medal.
We’ve been together for 16 years and we've been through almost every situation we could've been. And we're really comfortable with where we're at. We're just looking forward to taking that step towards the next Games.
NBCOlympics: Do you guys talk to one another on the ice? Does that ever happen? Davis: I think in really special performances when we're nearing the end, maybe three times Charlie has, you know, whispered something to me like… White: “Go for it.” Davis: “Go for it” or “this is it.” “Or enjoy this.” Or… just some sort of not technical reminder but a reminder to just enjoy the experience which is a really special moment, I think. Because it never happens until that moment where we feel like we're done with all the technique and we feel like we've really done our job. At that point it's really for us to be able to kind of connect with the audience and try to create a moment on the ice that we can remember, you know, years down the road.
I was actually watching our free dance at nationals in 2010 and I very much remember Charlie saying something to me just as we go into our diagonal forward sequence. You can – if you know what to look for – you can see him kind of lean over and whisper something to me just as we start that sequence. It's a really special moment to be able to share the excitement and share the significance of the moment not only the performance but on our lives, really.
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