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Meryl Davis and Charlie White: Rise to Olympic Gold
Meryl Davis and Charlie White have captured the hearts of millions during their fight for gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics. The two competed in the ice dancing competition - an event that is sometimes less noted in the Winter Olympic games. Ice dancing became an Olympic sport just 38 years ago in 1976. This sport incorporates both elements of dance and figure skating - requiring a man and woman pairing. As opposed to doubles figure skating, ice dancing lacks the throws; instead, incorporating beat and rhythm, while maintaining required elements, such as the dreaded twizzles. Blending both grace and athleticism, the synchronized skaters must maintain a close distance, while displaying elegant technique and capturing the audience. Anyone who has witnessed this dignified sport will attest to its beauty and seemingly gravity-defying lifts.
Young Davis and White
The two have been dancing together for the past 17 years, forming a unique bond that one cannot even think to imagine. Growing up just 10 minutes away, Davis and White entered competition after competition as children. Starting at the age of nine, Davis and White have grown to rely on each other on and off the ice. Charlie Davis remarks, "We've grown up together in every sense of the word, and I'm just so grateful that we were able to do it together." These two have been skating together longer than any other US team, forming a distinct and synchronized style. Both from Michigan, Davis and Charlie have trained with Russian coach Marina Zoueva.
Journey to the Olympics
Davis and White train alongside their biggest competitors, Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who also share the same coach. This competition has driven both pairs to train and compete harder than ever before. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Virtue and Moir claimed gold, while Davis and White took silver. Four years of day-in day-out training placed them as a contender for the gold medal at Sochi 2014. 2012-2014, Davis and White went undefeated, capturing last year's world championships and the last two Grand Prix finals.
To begin the competition for gold, Davis and White danced to a "My Fair Lady" medley in the short dance competition. Scoring an astounding 78.89 points, the Americans set a record in this competition. This placed them as the first place team going into the free dance competition, with Virtue and Moir two and half points behind, still a possible contender for gold. Davis and White surely set the tone for the second days competition, seemingly effortlessly nailing their twizzles and silencing the sportscasters. Their coach, Marine Zoueva states "They fly. You can see at the same time where they're strong and so light and at the same time, so flowing. I didn't see any moment that was forced. I really enjoyed the performances."
The second day - gold medal competition - put unthinkable loads of pressure on Davis and White as they followed a flawless Virtue and Moir, who finished with a total of 190.99 points, skating to a Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong medley. While the two believed to have skated a perfect routine, a slight misstep in their Finnstep lost them the total 4 points in the execution sequence. Davis and White did not let the pressure get to them. The ice dancers performed to Scheherazade, again, capturing the audience with their mirrored lines and extraordinary lifts. Their dance told the story of a murdering sultan and a clever wife. Just a day after setting a short program record, David and White set a freestyle world record with 116.63 points, putting their total at 195.52 points, outdoing their second place rivals by almost 5 whole points. At the conclusion of their performance, you can see White kneeling on the ground, then embracing Davis, whispering "I love you". Meryl Davis and Charlie White became the first US ice dancing team to take home the gold medal.
Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapovapov of Russia took the bronze with their classic Swan Lake freestyle piece that brought Elena to tears. Two other note-worth Olympic pairs - Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia and Alex Shibutani (The "Shib-sibs") - took 8th and 9th place respectively. These pairs are expected to be real competitors in the 2018 Olympics. For the time being, however, the spotlight remains on Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Hopefully this win will spur the beginning of something great in US ice dancing.