Newly crowned Olympic ice dance champs leave door open for worlds
How much can you cram into a single day in New York City?
A lot, if you're Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The newly crowned Olympic ice dance champions enjoyed a "whirlwind Wednesday," shuttling from one TV studio to another and mixing in stops at other prime media outlets.
The skaters arrived at the Rink at Rockefeller Center early in the morning to meet fans and warm up on the ice. From then on, it was go, go, go. An interview with TODAY show co-host Natalie Morales and a performance of their My Fair Lady short dance (minus the Finnstep). With their moms, Cheryl Davis and Jacqui White, a celebratory Kathie Lee and Hodasegment, followed by a visit to MSNBC's Morning Joe.
Ride an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building for a television spot and photo shoot. On to a taping for Katie Couric's show Katie, to be broadcast Friday, and an afternoon appearance at Ralph Lauren's Upper East Side flagship store, where they meet with David Lauren, the designer's son, and more fans. Squeeze in meetings at Sports Illustrated andUSA Today and cap it all off with an appearance on The Colbert Report.
"We're just looking forward to all the opportunities that are popping up," White said. "We're trying to just enjoy the moment."
Now that the pressure to win gold has melted away, neither White, 26, nor Davis, 27, has ever looked more relaxed. White beamed; Davis was positively vivacious.
Upon request, both happily handed over their Sochi gold medals to well-wishers to gawk at and hold. White's girlfriend, 2006 Olympic silver medalist Tanith Belbin, kept his medal stashed in an inside pocket of her sleek black coat, a Christmas gift from White; Davis pulled hers in and out of a tote.
"[New York] is so vibrant; there is so much energy, so many people," White said. "It's fun to sort of feed off of that. There is so much going on all of the time, being the ones in the spotlight feels very strange."
After their Rockefeller Center performance, they met with fifth-graders from PS 4 Duke Ellington's Class 502, who had a rink-side view of My Fair Lady. For two years, the students have interacted with the skaters through the Classroom Champions' mentoring program.
"We're trying to inspire them with our message, but they've been very inspirational for us," White said. "We've had them with us the whole journey."
"To see them face to face, feel their excitement, is one of the most enjoyable experiences we have," Davis said. "We're encouraging them to work hard for something they're passionate about, with every video we send them. It's not always easy, but if you're passionate about something, you can make it happen."
With snow falling, Davis donned a light fleece jacket over her pink dress, her only concession to the cold. A few weeks ago, she wouldn't have dared risk skating or even standing outdoors.
"Typically, we would think: 'Oh my God, we can't get sick. We need to be inside, we need to be doing this to take care of ourselves,'" she said. "Every little thing as an athlete makes such a difference, whether it's getting sleep, eating right, washing your hands obsessively.
"So I think that knowing the Olympic Games are behind us, we're much more relaxed, just because we were so focused on doing everything we possibly could to be in the best position going into the Games."
Along with other members of the U.S. Olympic figure skating team, they embark on a 20-cityStars on Ice tour beginning April 4 in Fort Myers, Fla. There are rumors of an appearance on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, whose star, Derek Hough, helped them perfect the quickstep and foxtrot prowess they showed off in My Fair Lady.
"If we're asked, I'm sure we would love to do it," Davis said last month of the potential invitation.
All in all, though, they don't have many firm plans. Both claim to be undecided on whether they will retire from the eligible competitive ranks.
"That's been really an asset to our careers: our ability to focus on the task at hand," Davis said. "We really didn't allow ourselves to think far beyond the Olympics."
"This lack of preparedness for anything that might come after is a foreign feeling for us because we're so used to preparing for everything that might be coming our way," she continued. "But it's enjoyable. It's a different place to be in, for sure."
Whether they will compete at the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, Japan, is also an open issue.
"We haven't decided yet whether we're going to do worlds," White said. "We want to wait until we're home in Detroit, sit down and talk with Marina [Zoueva] (their coach) and just figure out what direction we want to go in.
"Right now, we're focusing on enjoying everything, and then we'll make our decision. It's possible, absolutely."
Okay, I'm sorry. Even Stephen Colbert couldn't help fawning over these two the other night --neither can I.
If you could bottle whatever it is Meryl Davis and Charlie White have that makes them such a joy to behold... it still probably wouldn't work for anyone but them. Kinda like Charlie's bionic blond hair.
They arrived at just the right time, not just during the Olympics, but also for this country, I think. The Olympics didn't pan out anything like we expected -- Shaun White, Shani Davis... just... the whole feel of the thing was dicey. Like we weren't totally "in it" this time.
And of course, Putin had already slammed Obama for saying that Americans were "exceptional." In his OpEd piece for the New York Times, he's quoted as saying, "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." Granted he was talking about American foreign policy, not... ice dancing. But when I look at these two both on and off the ice, I think, "Yeah, but... we have young people like this, though, dude."
If they're not exceptional -- especially after earning the highest score for ice dancing,ever, at the Olympics -- I'm done.
And here's the thing. I'm not one of those people always harping at the press for not reporting any "good news." Far from it. I tend toward a more cynical world view -- the "dark side," decidedly.
But as Colbert said, there were grown men tearing up over that gold medal performance. And I was right there with them, biting my nails and watching Charlie's hair do things that just didn't seem humanly possible while they were both doing things that didn't seem humanly possible in that routine.
We "bonded" that night, many of us, watching that performance -- not just with the two gorgeous young things twizzling around the ice but with each other. I think we sometimes feel guilty, Americans, when we feel unabashed pride in moments like that. It's corny, it's... jingoistic.
But it's also good for us, every now and then, to see something that speaks well of us. Something that says that in spite of all our obvious problems here in America, there are parents raising wonderful children who perform with poise and dignity in almost any situation -- go watch them charm crazy Colbert. They're always like that.
They giggle and guffaw, they tease and tell stories. And they answer questions gracefully and thoughtfully -- even the one that everyone just cannot help asking. Youknow the one:
"C'mon, you're a couple, right? You hugged her and told her you loved her on in front of millions of people that night -- c'mon! You can't fool me!"
Colbert asked it several times. They denied it several times. Laughing, not smirking. It's as if they've agreed that if the world needs to believe "The Fairy Tale," so be it.They know who they are and how they feel about each other -- and that they are, for now, media darlings who will just have to be patient with us for a while longer.
But mostly, they're just a coupla ridiculously talented, infectiously happy and almost impossibly beautiful people who really do look like a Disney prince and princess as has been said probably too many times. I'm not a fan of Disney movies, either, really, but they almost make that whole Prince Charming thing -- the one that tricks so many of us women into believing The Fairy Tale -- feel real.
Watch Stephen Colbert gush -- the link's there. Click it.
Don't be scared. This is a bona fide American feel good story. Wallow in it while it lasts.
Image credit: Author screenshot/The Colbert Report, February 26, 2014