Meryl Davis, Charlie White class of ice dance field at U.S. Championships
Meryl Davis and Charlie White have a little history to take care of before they go for the first Olympic gold medal by an American ice dance couple in Sochi.
The reigning Olympic silver medalists are heavy favorites to win a record sixth U.S. Championship in ice dance, breaking a tie with four past couples.
Davis and White begin their fifth straight U.S. title defense on Friday at Boston’s TD Garden, hope to wrap up No. 6 on Saturday and be named to their second Olympic Team on Sunday.
They’re the closest to a sure thing across all four disciplines this weekend and might be the only American figure skaters to win a medal in Sochi.
Part of that is due to a lull across U.S. men’s, women’s and pairs skating, but more for their remarkable podium consistency since taking the baton from 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
Davis and White are the reigning world champions, have won five straight Grand Prix Finals and haven’t finished off the podium anywhere in nearly five years.
“We have been very fortunate to have an amazing career as American ice dancers,” the curly blond White said.
It started in earnest at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Davis and White won their first national title in 2009, but that was without the sidelined Belbin and Agosto, who became the first U.S. ice dancers to win an Olympic medal in 2006.
Davis and White outscored Belbin and Agosto in the short dance, original dance (since dropped from ice dancing competitions) and the free dance in Spokane, Wash., in 2010.
They then beat Belbin and Agosto again at the Olympics, silver to fourth, firmly planting themselves as the No. 1 U.S. ice dancers.
They enter Boston as the couple to beat and could win even with flaws, but neither likes those perspectives.
“I think Charlie and I always feel like the hunters,” Davis said. “Four years ago we were really seeking to be the top U.S. team going into the Games. We had a lot we wanted to accomplish. This time we’re really aiming to go after the perfect performances.”
It might take perfection to win Olympic gold over Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, their training partners in Canton, Mich. Virtue and Moir are known for their lyricism; Davis and White their athleticism.
The Americans brought in five-time “Dancing With the Stars” champion Derek Hough and a Persian dancer to boost their programs this season. They’ve been skating together for 18 years but are still learning, still improving.
Which doesn’t bode well for any other couples’ chances of taking gold in Boston.
“We’ve left no stone unturned,” White said.
The competition for the other two Olympic spots is led by Alex and Maia Shibutani, the “ShibSibs,” whose parents attended Harvard and mother was born in Japan. They’ve been skating together for 10 years, but this is their first chance to make an Olympic Team.
The Shibutanis have trained with Davis and White for six years.
“Ugh, those guys,” Alex joked of Davis and White. “When we were juniors in 2010, you’d have to ask them, but I felt very much like we were not yet ready to be a part of their group. After Grand Prix Finals, traveling with them, being to so many World Championships, they’ve really accepted us.”
Alex, who at 22 is three years older than Maia, was born in Boston and is excited to skate in the arena that the Celtics and Bruins call home.
“If you see him getting emotional when he’s looking up into the rafters,” Maia said, “you’ll know why.”
“I’m kind of a Mass-hole of sorts when it comes to the sports teams,” Alex said.
They are known for their humor and social media sense but also for their energy on the ice. The Shibutanis skate to Michael Buble in the short dance and a Michael Jackson medley in the free dance and have worked with Corky Ballas on choreography. Ballas, a Latin ballroom dancing champion, has trained “Dancing With the Stars” professionals such as Hough.
The Shibutanis won bronze at the 2011 World Championships, finished second, second and third at the last three U.S. Championships and won bronze medals at both of their Grand Prix events this season.
They’re the clear-cut No. 2 couple. Behind them are Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.
Bates took 11th at the 2010 Olympics with Emily Samuelson and teamed with Chock two years ago. They beat the Shibutanis at the 2013 U.S. Championships but did not make the podium in two Grand Prix events this season.
Hubbell and Donohue were fourth at the U.S. Championships and posted comparable scores to Chock and Bates in the Grand Prix season. They could be vying for that third and final spot.