SOCHI, RUSSIA — Charlie White and Meryl Davis stood by the edge of the rink.
They had spent a lifetime, training for this moment.
“First place and Olympic champions,” a woman said, over the public address system. “Representing the United States of America… Meryl Davis and Charlie White.”
Davis, 27, of West Bloomfield, and White, 26, of Bloomfield Hills,won the ice dance with 195.52 points on Monday night, breaking their own world record and becoming the first U.S. team to win the event.
They skated across the ice, hand in hand, and waved to the crowd during the flower ceremony. They skated to the podium and stopped by their old rivals – Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, the Canadians with whom they train at Arctic Edge in Canton under the same coach, Marina Zoueva.
Davis hugged Virtue, and White gave a big, muscular guy hug to Moir. The rivalry was already starting to fade. Virtue and Moir, who had won the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010, won the silver medal with 190.99 points.
After receiving their flowers – Davis and White will get their gold medals in a ceremony Tuesday – they took a victory lap around the rink, and somebody handed them a U.S. flag.
White held one corner of the flag, Davis held the other; and it draped around them.
Which seemed fitting; this was an equal partnership.
“We are just in shock,” Davis would say later. “This whole experience is so exciting and so fresh and something that we hadn’t prepared ourselves for.”
That’s funny, isn’t it? They had spent a lifetime to get to this moment, chasing a dream. But they never really thought about what it would be like to win a gold medal.
Davis and White grew up about 10 minutes apart, started skating together in elementary school and have stuck together for 17 years. Think about that. How many people keep a job for that long anymore? How many marriages last 17 years? How many teammates stick together for that long?
Can you imagine all the things Davis and White have gone through together during that time? How much they have changed? They went from shy kids in elementary school, through the awkward teenage years, past high school and into college.
Now, they are in their 20s. Strong. Confident. And they landed in the same spot. Hand in hand. Wrapped in the flag.
Davis and White were overwhelming favorites entering this competition, but it was still a daunting, pressure-packed situation because they were skating after some powerhouse performances: Right after their rivals and two Russian teams in a Russian arena.
After struggling in the team competition last week, Virtue and Moir performed an impressive long dance on Monday, putting pressure on Davis and White to produce a great performance to win it.
"This is the biggest stage in the world so, of course, it's stressful,” Virtue said. “It's a pretty ambitious program, and it's a loaded program, and I think we did it pretty well. We felt immense pressure. We trained 17 years for this moment."
Moir thought it was the best they could do. "It was what we wanted to do today,” Moir said. “That was our best performance of the year for that program. That program was our baby – and it's special for us to perform it for the last time."
Then, Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov skated brilliantly and brought down the house. When they finished, the predominantly Russian crowd was chanting and waving flags and they were awarded 183.48 points, which would be good enough for bronze.
"It all worked out for us tonight,” Ilinykh would say. “I'm overwhelmed with the emotions, I'm so tired, I need to sleep. I have been unable to get any sleep with all the adrenaline, yet we were able to focus and show what we can."
As Davis and White were warming up, the Russian crowd was chanting and screaming and whistling for Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, the Russian champions, who finished with 172.92 points.
“It’s probably the most nervous that you will be in a lifetime,” White said.
Davis and White performed to “Scheherazade,” which is based on a wicked story about a sultan who marries and murders a bride each day. That is, until the sultan meets a wife who tells him an endless story that never ends.
Just try to tell that story on ice. It is a complex dance, full of lifts and twists and turns and full of emotion. It’s a dance they probably couldn’t have done four years ago. Not this well.
But Zoueva saved it for this moment.
White lifted Davis flawlessly. She didn’t just skate. She seemed to take flight, as he lifted up her and flung her around his shoulders. At one point, he held her upside down. At another point, she put her skate on his thigh and she stood up on him.
Davis and White skated fearlessly on Monday night.
Some of the competitors at the Olympics looked like they were skating scared.
But Davis and White never do. They were athletic but elegant. A perfect mix of sports and art. And that is what they will be remembered for.
Davis and White have elevated U.S. ice dance to a new level.
When they were done, they collapsed in each other’s arms. White was so tired, so exhausted, he could only say three words: “I love you.”
But not romantically. It’s a profound, deep love that comes from spending most of your life with one person, going on an amazing journey together.
“It was the perfect moment to express how grateful that I am to have her by my side,” White said.
This competition had a strong Detroit flavor. Fifteen of the 24 Olympic teams have trained in Detroit: Nine at the Novi Ice Arena, three at the Detroit Skating Club and three in Canton.
Alex and Maia Shibutani, who train in Canton, experienced a wardrobe malfunction during their performance to a Michael Jackson medley. Seriously. During a lift, her dress got caught on something on her brother’s shoulder, which was adorned with crystals.
She was unable to complete the lift, so she ripped it free and they improvised on the spot.
After their performance, her tights were torn, but they had held onto ninth place with 155.17 points.
“We salvaged it and didn't fall,” Maia Shibutani said. “We pushed through."
Meanwhile, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who train in Novi, were fantastic. This was her first Olympics; his second. And they proved that they could be the team to beat in the future, finishing in eighth place with 164.64 points.
In the kiss and cry, Bates gave props to Michigan. He held up his hand, the universal way of showing where you live in Michigan, and he pointed at the spot where he grew up in Ann Arbor.
Then, he yelled. “Happy birthday, mom!” Nancy Bates, his mother, was celebrating a birthday on Monday.
"She's been the one who's driven me to the rink every day for 12 years - my biggest supporter,” Evan Bates said of his mom. “I tried not to (think about her), but earlier today, I was thinking about how special this day is."
On top of the world
After winning the gold medal, Davis and White started a whirlwind of appearances.
They stopped for an NBC interview. And then an interview in the mix zone. And then, a press conference at the ice arena. And then a press conference at the main media center.
They went from elated to loopy to exhausted back to elation.
And Moir said the rivalry is already fading. He imagines a time when he returns to Detroit to hang out with White.
“We’ll be able to roll into Detroit and catch a Red Wings game,” he said, smiling. “And I’ll play a pick-up game with Chuckie.”
Chuckie? Hmm, OK, then.
Davis and White praised their parents and their coaches and all the great ice dance teams that came before them in Detroit.
Some of the credit must go to Seth Chafetz, their first coach at the Detroit Skating Club and the guy who brought them together. Chafetz taught them technique and skill.
After Davis and White were accepted into the University of Michigan and moved to Ann Arbor, they started training under Zoueva in Canton. When Zoueva first looked at them, her eye focused on Davis. “She has a unique look, unique personality,” Zoueva said. “For me, I call her Little Flower.”
And Zoueva was able to pull emotion out of White. Believe it or not, he was once a stoic skater.
“They are very intelligent,” Zoueva said. “They are amazing.”
In the end, this night proved one thing.
Detroit is the ice dance capital of the world.
And now, we have a new king and queen.