Gold Medal Chance Finally Here for 16-Year Partners Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterFebruary 16, 2014

Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States compete in the team free ice dance figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press


We have them to thank for the amazing team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, ice dancing partners who have been competing together for 16 years, seeing each other through braces, puberty and the stresses of international competition.

No, neither of them had the disease dreaded by pre-teens everywhere. But, according to White's mother in this NBC video, the first partner for a nine-year-old Charlie White thought he did. She was out. Davis was in.

Of course, it wasn't always easy. At first the two shunned eye contact, as they were vaguely embarrassed by the forced intimacy.

"Being in such close proximity to a member of the opposite sex at the age of 9 was a strange feeling for me," Davis told NBC. "But he's always really fun and likes to joke around and have a good time." 

Time and the power of two competitive personalities soon cured the incipient awkwardness. The team grew into a force quickly. In their first season, they won a silver medal at the Junior Olympics in the Juvenile division. More success was to come.

"We've come a long way," White told the Today show. "It was so awkward trying to dance with someone like that. Even holding hands, it's the opposite of what you'd expect a little kid to be doing. We both really loved figure skating and ice dancing, so we made it work." 

For almost two decades the two platonic skaters have competed across the globe, winning competitions with their powerful skating and superb athleticism.

But something was missing. The two were a step behind their training partners, Canada's Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, who beat them for gold in the 2010 Olympics. 

Something needed to change. The athleticism was where it needed to be. The artistry was not. The difference between the best ice dancing teams in the world and the teams that compete early in each round boils down to elegance. The best teams are seamless, drawing you into the story, seemingly unaware they are even on ice. 

Despite their success, the team needed to do something different. They sought out Dancing with the Stars sensation Derek Hough, an affable and talented choreographer for both amateur and professional dancers. At first, unfamiliar with the world of figure skating, he wasn't sure he could help. But soon enough, he was sucked in by the pair's talent and drive.

"What's interesting is when you do certain moves on wood, you can stop instantly and change direction,"  Hough told TV Guide. "On the ice, you try to keep the flow and keep the momentum. You're always going; there's no break like there can be on wood.

"That's something I didn't really realize until we started working. We were constantly adjusting things and changing things. I was in awe of their synchronicity. It was awesome to see how they translated everything from the wood floor to the ice."

The program he helped put together for the two, skated to "My Fair Lady," includes elements of both the foxtrot and the quickstep. The result is spectacular, two people moving as one, gliding over the ice, connected to each other and the music. It's a big part of the reason they've been undefeated this season, including a record-setting sixth win at the U.S. Nationals, where they set a points record.

"I think today we kind of reached a comfort level with this program that we haven't necessarily achieved in competition so far," Davis told Fox Sports' Michelle Kwan. "I think we've been putting a lot of pressure on ourselves for the technical aspects. And I think we've finally reached a comfort level where we can really focus on just having fun with the program."

It's put the pair in the driver's seat as they look to unseat Moir and Virtue. The Americans scored first blood, dominating the Canadian duo in the team competition last week. On Sunday, their short dance earned a 78.89, a record total that gave them a solid lead.

"If you're wondering what perfection in ice dancing is, it is that," NBC commentator Tara Lipinski said after their short dance. "They skate so close together, which is really hard and risky. Everything is technically perfect. They put you at ease...their skating speaks for itself."

Still, despite the momentum, White is wary of accepting the mantle of "favorite."

"It's hard to say from an outsider's perspective what would make someone a favorite," White told USA Today. "For us, it feels great knowing that we've been able to build on each performance. It certainly gives us confidence."