On paper, the U.S. ice dancing super pair of Charlie White and Meryl Davis is an obvious favorite to win gold in Sochi. They won silver in Vancouver and have since won gold at two world championships, six national championships and five grand prix finals. At the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, the pair scored their best personal free skate and finished with the highest possible score for their routine.
But what is even more special about the tandem is that White, 26, and Davis, 27, have been skating together since 1997, the longest any U.S. ice dancing pair has ever skated together.
Since being placed together as kids, White and Davis have held each other’s hand through 17 years of success, failure and undeniable chemistry on the ice. It is their longtime partnership that will carry them to the gold medal podium spot on the world’s biggest stage.
It wasn’t necessarily a seamless transition for White and Davis to begin skating together. At eight and nine years old, respectively, the pair was at an age where holding hands with the opposite sex was decidedly gross. White was a single skater who started ice dancing to help his posture, and Davis was a shy girl who needed to be brought out of her shell.
But as fate would have it, a coach at the Detroit Ice Skating Club thought the two would make a strong pair. Davis recalls the introduction to Kyle Austin of MLive, “Charlie was a couple of months ahead of me in terms of the ice dance world, and so when he was partnered up with someone who hadn’t had any ice dancing experience, he was a little bit…”
“Put off,” White added, “I was like 'She doesn’t even know what she’s doing.'”
Luckily the duo patiently worked together to foster a functional, lasting relationship, winning a silver medal at the U.S. Junior Olympics their first year together. That was just the beginning for the pair, who grew up together from that point on.
Both attended public school; White played hockey on a team that won the high school state championship, Davis overcame dyslexia and became an honor society student. Together they graduated high school and enrolled as students at the University of Michigan, where they could focus on studies while successfully skating to six consecutive national championships.
Jacqui White and Cheryl Davis, also known as “The Moms” at the rink, are the pair’s mothers who spend almost every moment together in support of their kids. “The Moms” talk about the duo’s working relationship over the years saying, “Meryl and Charlie’s relationship is much tougher than a marriage. How many people do you know that spend 10 hours a day with their husband and wife?” said White in the P&G Raising an Olympian series, “To have an enduring relationship there is only one word and that’s respect. It’s the number one thing.”
Respect as well as trust are two components of the pair’s relationship that have stood the test of time, which is evident from watching them perform. In perfect synchronicity, White and Davis glide flawlessly in unison, lifting one other into the air, as if the two were born to be on the ice together.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of the same goals in skating and I think that because of that we’ve always had very similar work ethics and great families to keep us happy,” said White, according to Brandon Penny for TeamUSA, “There are a lot of things that have gone into our great relationship but we genuinely care for each other, which is one of the main things.”
With the eyes of the world watching in Sochi, White and Davis will perform the same magic on the ice that they have worked 17 years to perfect. Countless hours of practice, sacrifice and hard work will certainly put them in position, but it will be the duo’s undeniable chemistry that will ultimately carry the pair to Olympic gold and into the hearts of millions.