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Meryl Davis & Charlie White Voice their Thoughts about Next Week’s Hilton Honors Grand Prix in Detroit

 by Alexandra Stevenson

(10 October 2013)  White, who turns 26 on October 24, explained, “We were very happy with the way the U.S. international classic went (in Salt Lake City last month). We did a good job, got the programs both out there, felt how they went in competition, very successfully, and saw what we still had to do, to accomplish what we have strived for all these years.

“The (Hilton HHonors) Skate America is going to be in our home town (Detroit). It’s going to be a great competition. I don’t think we’ve actually competed here for at least ten years, so that’s great that many of our relatives and friends can get to see us compete in person and not just on the television. When did we compete in Detroit last? – It has to be at least 10 years ago. It’s exciting for us. Both our families live in area and having them be there, watching us live instead of on the television, is tremendous. Maybe, we’ll be more nervous. We don’t want to let them down. My parents are organizing the seats, etc. I have no idea how many are involved, but I’m sure it’s an overwhelming amount.

“Our preparation is interesting. Even though we are close enough to live at home during the event, we don’t want to do that. We want to follow the normal pattern, where we are in the official hotel, with everyone else. We don’t want to cut ourselves off, because we know what has worked for us in the past and we want to stick to that. We don’t want to change anything.”

Davis explained, “This year we are paying particular attention to the musicality of our programs.” Their Short Program is set to three pieces of music from the British show, “My Fair Lady”, beginning with “I Could Have Danced All Night”. White explained, “Our expectations go beyond any given placement.”

His partner added, “The first past of the music is after she has been transformed from a lower class cockney flower girl. She’s now very elegant and has just been declared the belle of the ball. The music is bubbly, light, elegant and fun.”

White explained, “The Short is all about getting the Levels. The Finnstep has two of the five elements, so that’s a critical area, that’s what we work most on, the little things on the footwork.” Their Free Dance uses Russian music from Rimsky Korsakov’s beloved “Scheherazade”. “We had toyed with using this piece a few years ago. We’re glad now we saved it. Since it’s Russian music, it’s our way of honoring the Russian influence in dance in general, and, specifically, our coach’s heritage.”

Davis added, “It never hurts to have the support of the crowd. At the end of the day, it’s really about moving the audience and making that emotional impact.”

Davis stresses, “Charlie and I really want to enjoy the process. We idolized the American ice dancers who came before us and whom we saw while we were climbing the ladder. It wasn’t just one team. We admired and took inspiration from everyone we grew up with, watching their growth and learning from their progress. I remember Peter (Tchernyshev) & Naomi (Lang), Jamie (Silverstein) & Justin (Pekarek), and, of course, Tanith (Belbin) & Ben (Agosto). They and many others, taught us by example, to stand straighter, to react to the music more and to the audiences, and to push ourselves. They were invaluable for our progress. From other countries, we particular admired (Marina) Anissina & (Gwendal) Peizerat.”

Davis started skating when she was five on a frozen lake near the family’s home. White began on a family outing when he was four and was primarily interested in hockey. His team won the state championship. He gave up the game after breaking an ankle which took him out of the 2005 nationals and World Junior Championships.

They have won a huge amount of medals, starting with their first gold in the 1997 Eastern Great Lakes Juvenile Regional championship up to their second world title last March in Canada and in last month’s U.S. classic.

In the world championship last March, which was held in London, Ontario, in Virtue’s home town, the Canadians lost primarily because of Tessa Virtue’s mistake on the Twizzles, causing her partner, Scott Moir, to state, “Twizzles are the ice dancers’ quad!” The two couples have trained together in Canton since that rink opened and Marina Zoueva moved down with them from Canada.

Davis, who was born on New Year’s Day 1987, was asked about their main rivals. “Charlie & I train with Tessa & Scott so we don’t have to wait to see them. We are aware of all the progress they are making on a daily basis. They are brilliant skaters with wonderful material and they inspire us to work our hardest, every day! We both benefit from our close encounters. When you are feeling tired and they zip past you, it makes you try that little bit harder. It makes the day go faster and more productively.”

It’s a far cry from when they were teamed up. The duo’s mothers well remember that stage. The children didn’t really speak to each other, and, despite an early coach’s instruction, that White must look at Davis when they were dancing together, he was too shy to do that. Finally, Davis’s mother stuck a post-it on her daughter’s forehead and told White to look at that, which worked!

Last Thursday, when the team phoned in for their press conference, Davis was asked how training was going. She replied, “Swimmingly”. The two-rink facility, not that far from the Detroit Airport, is a functional, airy place. But too much hot air was getting in from outside, leaving the not so good situation of “Really warm ice!”

Both couples benefited from their experience last December in Sochi, in the “Iceberg” Arena on which the figure skating and Short Track Speed medals will be earned next February. The Russian President, who has a secondary residence in Sochi, turned up while the ice dancers were warming up. Davis remembers that moment. “There was a huge roar from crowd. We looked up at the video in the center of the roof, which was showing him in the seats, and I said, “Oh My Gosh! It’s Vladimir Putin.” That was awesome. It shows how much Russians care about skating. Of course, we needed to focus on ourselves at that stage, but we do need to feed off the expression of the crowd, too.

“The arena is beautiful. We were surprised at how prepared it was. Everything was in order. The stadium was extremely comfortable.”

New, this season, of course, is that there will be a team event in Sochi. White said, “It’s a new wrinkle. We should have a very strong team. It’s awesome to have another opportunity for gold on Olympic ice. Meryl and I are really going to relish it. We really want to go out and do our best. Other people will be relying on us. We want to unite the USA.

“This time around, we’re not the new kids anymore. This is our second Olympic Games and it will be different. The first time we were bright eyed and bushy tailed – still in awe of everything. But now we are more prepared and expect more from ourselves. We’re really hungry for the best performance of our lives. We’re coming in knowing what we learned from Vancouver. The biggest thing is that we can handle any scenario. We realize how much confidence we should have in ourselves. We got the silver medal in 2010 in Vancouver before we had even won a world medal. (They were fourth by a sliver in the 2009 world championship. Both Virtue & Moir, who got the bronze, and Davis & White earned a total that year of 200 points. The Canadians overall score was 200.40; Davis & White had 200.36! They lost the bronze by 4/100 th of a point!)

White explained, “It’s illogical to say the Games are like any other competition. They are much bigger and important. We have to arrange for us to be the most comfortable we can be. Marina talks with us and makes us feel comfortable. I don’t think we’ll be changing any tactics mentally. Our expectations go beyond any given placement. We want to stay in character from beginning to end, and we want to keep the audience enthralled.”

One thing White knows is that it won’t be entirely a trip focused that is focused on figure skating. “You can are at an Olympic Games too long, to only think of skating 24/7. “I am planning to watch some hockey. Definitely!”

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