Precious Medal

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Photographs by Roy Ritchie

For Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the past couple of months have been as head spinning as their on-ice twirls.

Less than a month after winning the silver medal for ice dancing at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, the American ice dancers boarded a plane for Torino, Italy, where they placed second at the World Figure Skating Championships in March. And they’re already entertaining golden hopes for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Russia.

Hour Detroit met with West Bloomfield Township native Davis, 23, and Bloomfield Hills native White, 22, at the Arctic Edge ice rink in Canton, where they train.

What is your life like when you leave the rink?

Davis: I’m usually at home with my family or at my house in Ann Arbor with my [Delta Delta Delta] sorority sisters. … Last year, I lived in the [sorority] house, which was amazing and one of the best years of my life.

White: Taking it easy at my house in Ann Arbor. I live with three other skaters; we’re pretty competitive with the video games. … I’ve been taking it easy with the hockey; I haven’t played in two years. I didn’t want to get injured before the Olympics. … As soon as Worlds [Figure Skating Championships] is over, I’m going to get back out there. It’s one of my true loves, and I miss it every day.

Can you describe your personalities?

Davis: I’m generally pretty shy, but if I know someone pretty well, I’m kind of silly.

White: I’m pretty extroverted. I enjoy being funny — or trying to be funny, at least. That’s a big part of my personality. Humor is important, especially when you have to do something so serious every day, you have to keep it light.

If you weren’t ice dancers, what would you like to be?

Davis: It’s a pretty recent discovery, but I would really like to be a snowboarder.

White: I would see myself graduating from college and going back for some sort of graduate degree or maybe law school.

How do you fit everything in and still find balance?

Davis: I think early on for us, since we were so busy, we learned time-management skills. We attended school full time, we were both doing freestyle dance, and Charlie was doing hockey and violin, so we learned to make the most of our time.

White: Every moment is really precious to us.

What’s something people don’t know about you?

Davis: How important our education is to us.

White: Playing hockey and violin are something people might not expect.

In class and on the University of Michigan campus, are you able to blend in, or do people recognize you? How do they react?

Davis: More people know who I am not because of skating, but through the Greek system.

White: No one knows who I am. … I went to Zingerman’s [after the Olympics] and there were a few students there who recognized me and said congratulations, which was totally abnormal. For the most part, I blend in.

Whom do you admire and consider role models?

Davis: I look up to people for different reasons. … I look up to a lot of figure skaters in the past, like Liz Punsalan and Jerod Swallow, for their ice-dancing career, and they’re just great people. For educational purposes, I look up to both of my parents.

White: As a figure skater, you get to know a lot of the former figure skaters, and two that I think are really great people and advocates of the sport are Scott Hamilton and Kristi Yamaguchi. They’re two of the absolutely nicest people. They really set the standard for how a figure skater should act.

After the Olympics, other competitions, and tours are over, what’s is in your future? Will skating always be a part of it?

Davis: I think skating will always be a part of our lives since it’s been a part of it for so long. It’s kind of melded into who we are. Charlie and I are also unique in that once we’re done with our skating careers as athletes, skating will play a much smaller role. We want to pursue our educations and academic careers.

White: We owe so much to figure skating that we would be doing ourselves and the sport a disservice by just leaving it behind. We’ll definitely stay in touch.

Davis: Excitement and relief. It’s a different feeling than winning any other medal, because it really makes you think about all the people who have played a part in your career and your whole life. … It really makes you appreciate everything that people do for you.

White: It would be easy to make a mistake under all the pressure, so to have skated so well and on top of that earn the silver medal, I could breathe again.

Even though Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skate for Canada, they train with you at Arctic Edge. Is there ever any tension? What’s your relationship like?

Davis: We’re incredible friends with them. There’s never tension. There’s definitely healthy competition. Being able to train side by side just pushes our careers to new heights.

White: I hang out with Scott as often as I can; we’re best friends. We both have a passion for hockey and a bunch of other sports. We get along really well and are able to support each other on the ice, which makes training so much easier.

What kind of training led to Vancouver?

Davis: Leading up to Vancouver, not a whole lot changed. We tried to make sure we went into this year as if it were any other year. We worked as hard as we always do. When we moved to this rink with [coaches] Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband five years ago, we pretty much had the same schedule. We’re on the ice for up to four hours a day, we [do weight training] four and a half hours a week, and we do ballet two days a week. We’re at the rink six to seven hours a day, five days a week.

Describe life in the Olympic Village.

Davis: The Olympic Village experience was one of the things I was looking forward to most. The cafeteria is really the spot where most people hang out. Watching hockey players, lugers, skiers, and all these people walking in and out, it’s really interesting to see how differently everyone acts and how different each athlete from each sport conducts himself. We hung out with the speed skaters a lot, who I think are pretty similar to the figure skaters.

White: The village was right on the water. You had the view of the mountains in the background and the bay. I had three roommates; actually one of the kids I live with went to the Olympics, too. You got to see the personalities of everyone on display, and kind of what their mindset was going into such a big event. A lot of the snowboarders were stereotypically joking around, and not taking themselves too seriously. The hockey teams were all business. They were all wearing suits, and they would sit together as a team.

Did any athlete make you star-struck?

Davis: I was really excited to meet Shaun White.  He seemed like a really cool and down-to-earth guy. So many people came up to him and bothered him for autographs and pictures, and he had a smile on the whole time.

White: It was cool to see the NHL’s best players … walking through the cafeteria. A lot of the Red Wings were there, so I got the chance to talk to them. [Red Wings Coach] Mike Babcock was the coach of the Canadian team, so I got to meet him. … They were all super nice. When they found out I was from Detroit, they were like, ‘Oh, cool, you have to come to our games; hit us up.’ That was awesome.

Will you be competing in the Olympics in Russia?

Davis: That’s the plan.

White: Heck, yeah.

How do you describe the bond that you share?

Davis: We’re friends. We spend hours upon hours a day, five days a week, sometimes weeks with each other. The strength of our relationship has been the foundation of our career.

White: We’re really lucky our personalities mesh well. We have the same goals and work ethic. We’re always on the same page … Most ice-dance teams … usually don’t get along, so we realize how lucky we are.

What are your similarities and differences?

Davis: When we first started skating together, I was so incredibly shy and Charlie has always been really outgoing. Over the last 13 years, we’ve really rubbed off on each other. I’m much more outgoing.

White: In school, Meryl takes all her notes very well and studies a good amount of time ahead of time. I don’t take notes, and I will just cram.

How were you paired up?

White: We both did freestyle skating and I also played hockey, so I had terrible posture from that. I started ice dancing when I was 7 or 8, just to improve my posture and skating skills. I was working my way up the ranks, not really focusing on it, but my coach Seth [Chafetz], who is a freestyle and dance coach, brought Meryl over one day, and he recognized her as a really strong skater and thought we would be a good match. Meryl had never ice-danced before, but she knew one basic dance and we tried it out and it went really well. We kind of just picked it up from there.

Have you ever been romantically involved?

Davis: No, we’re just really close.

White: We have more of a sibling vibe.

Are you dating anyone currently?

Davis: Not right now.

White: Yes, but I can’t say. [But various reports say that it’s fellow ice dancer Tanith Belbin.]

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