tching Meryl Davis and Charlie White's breathtaking, gold medal-winning performance at theOlympics this past week, it was practically impossible not to assume that the ice-dancing duo was completely, hopelessly in love. But despite spending the majority of their time together for the past 17 years, the partners insist that they've always remained firmly in the friendship camp. Take that, Harry and Sally!
Speaking to us from the P&G Family Home in Sochi, Meryl and Charlie shared details into the history of their partnership and how they maintain a "just friends" relationship in the romantic world of figure skating.
Let's talk about the art of being just friends. I know everyone always thinks you're dating, but you've said you're not. Tell me how you've made it work for so long.
Meryl: Charlie and I were pretty shy around each other when we first started out around as little kids, but as the years went on, we developed a really close bond. We really spent the majority of time together since we were eight and nine years old. I think that since we’ve grown up together, and we’ve been such integral parts of each other's lives for so long, it’s really created a very close friendship.
Do you have any rules for staying just friends, or did it happen that way on its own?
Charlie: From a young age, we were so focused on advancing in our sport and doing everything we could as skating partners, that’s really where all of our energy went. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of respect, it takes a lot of patience, and having similar work ethic. Especially when we were young, we were very lucky to have our moms there at the rink every day, leading by example on how to treat each other, and we are so thankful to them. We attribute a lot of our partnership success, not just our skating success, to their dedication.
Do you find it hard to have romantic relationships with other people when you have such a close bond with each other?
Meryl: We don’t, actually. I think that because we’ve been together for so long, and it’s such a large component of our lives, that anyone who may come into our lives usually is very understanding right off the bat.
What differentiates a friendship between a man and a woman from a romantic relationship? Your relationship sounds so much like what a lot of couples have!
Meryl: That's very challenging!
Charlie: We’re also business partners in what we do. I think it comes from spending so much time together, that’s sort of the main reason why we read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. Obviously we’re close and we definitely love each other, certainly; there’s no way we could have come this far without that. But all of that is certainly possible without getting romantically involved.
Do you get sick of each other? Do you fight?
Meryl: No! And it’s understandable how that could arise, without the amount of time and the pressure that we’re under, but I think that it’s just as simple as Charlie and I got incredibly fortunate to have similar outlooks on life. We’ve been raised similarly, and I think the level of respect that we have for one another and our understanding of one another has allowed us to really enjoy the process instead of facing any obstacles that may have happened between us.
Does it feel weird to have to portray the image that you have this romance between you on the ice, even though you’re platonic in person?
Charlie: When we were younger and first getting to the stages of ice dance where it really was important to be able to show that, it was difficult, more because we were just shy and had never really done any of that sort of acting. We work with acting coaches and we’re really lucky to have one of the greatest coaches of all time, Marina Zoueva, showing us the ropes of the movement and the way you need to look at each other, but that’s really what it comes down to: being able to act, making it believable. It’s something that we really embrace, and it was necessary for us to become a complete ice dance team, one that could really vie for an Olympic medal. Part of that is just drawing the audience in and making it believable.
Maybe you guys should teach actual actors about this. I feel like they’re always hooking up.
Meryl: (Laughing) Well, obviously they’re resorting to method acting.
(For more on Meryl and Charlie's partnership from their moms' perspectives, watch their "Raising an Olympian"video, in which Charlie's mom says, "Meryl and Charlie's relationship is much harder than a marriage.")
Did you see their winning performance? Wasn't it amazing? Do any of you have a lifelong friendship with a guy?