Meryl Davis, Charlie White win USA's first ice dancing gold medal
SOCHI, Russia -- Meryl Davis and Charlie White stood atop the podium, unable to stop grinning or sneaking peeks at the scoreboard.
Believe it. That really is a gold medal next to Davis and White's names.
Davis and White delivered on their season-long goal of gold Monday night, giving the U.S. its first Olympic title in ice dance. They beat longtime rivals and training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, and it wasn't even close.
Davis and White finished with 195.52, about 4.5 points ahead of the Canadians. It was a flip of the Vancouver podium, where Virtue and Moir were first and the Americans second.
It's the 15th gold in Olympic figure skating for the Americans, most of any country, but first in dance, a discipline where they weren't even afterthoughts a decade ago. Davis and White also won the first world title by a U.S. dance team, in 2011.
Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov were third, adding a bronze medal to the gold they won in the team competition. The other two U.S. teams, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, were eighth and ninth, respectively.
Davis and White finished second to Virtue and Moir four years ago in Vancouver, the start of a rivalry that's been the best thing going in figure skating. The training mates have been swapping spots atop the podium the past four years, with the Canadians winning world titles in 2010 and 2012.
But the Americans have slowly pulled away from Virtue and Moir the past two years. Davis and White won their second world title last year, and topped the Canadians again at this year's Grand Prix final.
Add in a victory in the team competition, and Davis and White had beaten Virtue and Moir at every competition dating to the 2012 world championships.
Davis and White were paired when they were about 10 and have been together ever since, a partnership that's outlasted many marriages. They have not only grown up together but also grown as a team.
The Americans won the silver medal in Vancouver largely on their speed and power, but they've become the near-perfect package. They're such a seamless blend of art and athleticism, it's easy to forget they're skating on a sheet of ice and not dancing on a ballroom floor.
Or, on Monday night, in a ballet.
Skating to Scheherazade, Davis and White embodied the desperation of the sultan's wife who must tell stories night after night to save her life. Their program was fast-paced, with not a second wasted, yet every bit of it was expertly done.
Their unison is something to behold, particularly those twizzles. The spinning turns do in most teams, and no wonder. Try rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. Now try doing it in sync with someone else, and you get the idea.
But Davis and White may as well have been mirror images, every inch of their bodies perfectly in tune. Their lifts were exquisite, so polished it masked their incredible difficulty. In one, he carries her in an upside down position, then swings her around until she is doing the splits. He then spins her around his back before finally setting her down on the ice.
It's a program that takes every ounce of energy they have, and White knelt on the ice for several seconds when they finished, spent.
Virtue and Moir's free dance was lovely and light, done with the elegance and emotion that is their trademark. Their lifts were spectacular, including one where she was perfectly horizontal, supporting herself only by her hands, which were on his upper thighs, and her head, which was on his shoulder.
They changed tempos and speeds well, and their skating skills were first-class, as always. But there also were "empty" spots in the program, when they seemed to stay in one spot, and she appeared to finish one of their side-by-side spins a touch ahead of him.
Small quibbles, to be sure. But with this rivalry, with teams this good, it takes the tiniest of details to separate silver from gold.
"There can be a lot of distractions on this stage at an Olympic Games they're everywhere, distractions are everywhere," said Moir. "Our job was to focus on each other and focus on having a great Games. … and we did that for sure. We're really happy with the way we executed."
The next pair to skate, Ilinykh and Katsalapov nearly blew the roof off the Iceberg Skating Palace with their majestic Swan Lake free dance, highlighted by their unison and excellent lifts done with unusual entries. The crowd was already on its feet and roaring as their music ended, and he pounded the ice.
They exchanged a long hug, and he threw a roundhouse punch as they left the ice.