For 16 years, Meryl Davis and Charlie White have worked together to excite crowds all over the world with their symmetry on the ice. On Monday, it paid off in a big way.
Davis and White skated brilliantly together to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s classic Sheherazade, easily outdistancing the Canadian pair of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue.
In fact, the two pairs have competed against each other for years. Moir and Virtue came to Sochi to defend the gold medal they captured at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Davis and White finished in second to win the silver medal, matching the best-ever finish by an American team (Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, 2006).
Now, Davis and White have given the United States something no duo in either ice dancing or pairs has ever done—bring home a gold medal.
The two danced with a synchronicity never before seen on the ice, at least from an American couple. On Sunday, they set a new world record with a completely flawless short program that gave a score of 78.89. They would add to that lead with their performance in the free-skate on Monday, registering a free-dance record 116.63.
It was combined display of grace, power and symmetry that wowed the judges at Sochi. Prior to this year, Moir and Virtue were the best in the world. Davis and White train with the Canadian couple in Detroit and share the same coach as well. What made a difference for Davis and White was a commitment to skating together in a more cohesive fashion, starting with the hiring of choreographer Derek Hough.
Hough is a five-time winner of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and a world-renowned choreographer, but he had never before worked with a pair of dancers on skates. Taking on the new challenge, Hough worked with Davis and White and helped them learn the foxtrot and quickstep, two dance disciplines the pair would eventually work into their short program.
The results were positive and immediate—Davis and White have gone undefeated for the past 22 months.
Hough did not attend the Olympics, but he was certainly there in spirit. And at first, Hough was hesitant to work with Davis and White.
“There were lots of reasons — scheduling and the show and other stuff — but I really had to think about it because I wasn't really sure if I could do it,” Hough told TV Guide. “I've never choreographed for ice before and you don't want to be the guy who screws someone out of winning the Olympics!”
That of course wasn’t an issue—Davis and White were the clear favorites heading into the event, and they did absolutely nothing to disappoint.
Davis and White have now delivered two firsts for the United States—they were also the first couple to win a world ice dancing title for the U.S. in 2011.
In addition, Davis and White’s close rivalry with Moir and Virtue is what helped to fuel them as well. Training together for years, the two pairs have developed a close friendship rather than a bitter rivalry that often exists in other sports. It’s refreshing to know that competitors can actually feel happy for each other with their accomplishments.
In a conversation with Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, White and Moir talked about their relationship over the years.
"I don't know how many years we've trained with these guys," said White (it's been since 2005). "It's great being at all the top events with them. It really feels like home. There's a real certainty to having the two of us out on the ice."
"Yeah, I agree with Charlie," Moir said. "The neat thing is Charlie and I came up the same way, playing hockey and then making that transition to ice dance. We have a great friendship and a pretty heated rivalry. … Nobody else really knows what we are going through like these guys."
This time around, White can claim victory over his friend and training partner, and he and Davis showed the world that perseverance is indeed a virtue.