The 2014 Winter Olympics' ice dance free dance figure skating competition took place in Iceberg Skating Palace on Monday in Sochi, Russia, and it was a thrilling spectacle that won't soon be forgotten.
Record-setting and inspiring performances characterized the action, but in the end, the favored USA pairing of Meryl Davis and Charlie White captured the gold medal with a world-record-setting total score of 195.52 as the event's final tandem to take the ice.
Here is a look at the medal winners and the top-10 finishers from this excellent figure skating showcase, which combined Monday's scores with the marks from the short dance program on Sunday:
|Place||Skaters (Country)||Short Dance||Free Dance||Total Score|
|1||Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA)||78.89||116.63||195.52|
|2||Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada)||76.33||114.66||190.99|
|3||Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (Russia)||73.04||110.44||183.48|
|4||Natalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (France)||72.78||104.44||177.22|
|5||Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (Russia)||69.97||102.95||172.92|
|6||Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (Italy)||67.58||101.92||169.50|
|7||Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (Canada)||65.93||103.18||169.11|
|8||Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)||65.46||99.18||164.64|
|9||Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA)||64.47||90.70||155.17|
|10||Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland (Great Britain)||59.33||91.78||151.11|
Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir upped the stakes before Davis and White claimed their spots at the top of the podium, setting a world record with their score at the time, per CBC Sports' Scott Russell:
Before getting further into the USA's triumph, though, an exceptional performance by Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov was enough to give the hosting Russians the bronze medal. It got the home crowd even more abuzz before Davis and White went on to win.
The unprecedented ice dance mark set by the 2010 Vancouver Games gold medalists in Virtue and Moir was broken just minutes later by their American rivals on Monday. The competition featured some valiant efforts and beautiful routines early on, but the anticipation was building for the conclusion and the showdown between the two heavy favorites.
Both sensational teams are coached by the same woman in Marina Zoueva, who discussed how she felt about the two going at each other on Sunday evening, per NBCOlympics.com's Nicholas McCarvel.
"I love my skaters skating – I can't wait to get up and work again," said Zoueva. "They are beautiful, both teams. You can see they have different skates, different approaches. I truly enjoy it."
Juliet Macur of The New York Times felt that Davis and White didn't get quite the appreciative reception they deserved from those in attendance:
Hate to say it, but Russian fans at ice dancing are lame now. Meryl Davis & Charlie White danced brilliantly, but got a lukewarm reception.— Juliet Macur (@JulietMacur) February 17, 2014
Nevertheless, it doesn't take away from the pride the pair made swell throughout the U.S. as they executed with amazing precision, athleticism and grace.
The BBC's Ollie Williams felt that the Americans won fair and square, dismissing any notions of a fixing and delegating credit to the amazing figure skating display:
Wallop. No scandal there. How I would have loved the intrigue, but Davis and White knocked it out of the park (as they'd say). 195.52.— Ollie Williams (@OllieW) February 17, 2014
Davis and White had an incredible amount of pressure on them after Virtue and Moir put together a sensational effort to ascend to the top, but they embraced it and owned the moment.
Their home flagship school gave them a shout-out for a magnificent job, and Christine Brennan of USA Today appreciated how well Davis and White did after four years of hard work and tireless training:
As a journalist, just wonderful to watch a team rise to occasion and perform its best at most important moment of career. USA just did that.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 17, 2014
McCarvel pointed out how Davis and White now have every piece of Olympic hardware, with this one obviously being the highest honor:
The Michigan natives scored perfect 10s in the categories of choreography and interpretation timing to go with a 9.93 in execution.
That's about as flawless as it gets under the circumstances, especially since Davis and White hadn't lost in two years and were tasked with improving upon the silver medal they won in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Through all the pressure and accompanying adversity, they succeeded.
Although this is just about the premium pinnacle imaginable in figure skating, there's reason to believe Davis and White don't have another Olympic run in them. Davis is 27 and White is 26 years old, so one more shot at Winter Games gold seems at least feasible.
In the meantime, look for Davis and White to continue dominating ice dance competitions for the foreseeable future. Their chemistry is incredible and their choreography is evidently unmatched by any pair in the world. Thus, there's little reason for them to cease competing and striving to get even better.
This win is a landmark triumph for ice dancing, a competition the Americans traditionally have not even been a factor in. The brilliance Davis and White showed should inspire others and bolster the figure skating depth the USA has in ice dance and other competitions in the years to come.