Michigan Pair Breezes to Lead
Boston — This city, painful as it is for Philadelphians to acknowledge, is a showcase for sports champions.
The Red Sox won the World Series this fall. Tom Brady and his Patriots begin their quest for a fourth Super Bowl tonight. And the Celtics and Bruins have so many banners that TD Garden’s rafters resemble a sports quilt.
So what better setting for Meryl Davis and Charlie White to remind the skating world that they are ice dancing’s world champions and 2014 Winter Olympic favorites?
The Michigan duo performed Friday with such speed, grace and athleticism that it nearly transcended their icebound sport. At times, they seemed to be pairs skaters, in other moments ballroom dancers.
“Today we reached a comfort level with this performance that we haven’t really achieved in competition before,” said Davis, 27. “I think we’ve reached a point where we can really focus on having fun with it.”
Skating to music from My Fair Lady , Davis and White achieved their highest score for a program they were skating for a fifth time, their 80.69 total more than seven points better than second-place Madison Chock and Evan Bates (73.41).
They should glide to a sixth straight national title tonight when the ice-dance competition concludes with the free-skate.
The 15 member U.S. Olympic figure-skating team — 3 women, 2 men, 3 ice-dance teams and 2 pairs — will be revealed on Sunday.
“Obviously, we got a great score and you really want that, especially at home,” said White, 26, a former hockey player who was thrilled to film a recent Visa commercial at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena wearing a Red Wings jersey.
“We certainly are looking to become national champions and lead this team into the Olympics. And I think we took a really good step forward today.”
Though they’re aged veterans in the sport, the two continue to practice doggedly, infusing their workouts with varied techniques.
They’ve worked with a Dancing With the Stars choreographer. Davis trained with a mime and has embellished her part in their free skate, to Scheherazade , with the help of a Persian dancer
Since it sometimes takes a village in figure-skating, Davis and White also employ a psychologist.
“But definitely not for visualizing a gold medal,” said the cautious Davis. “We try to focus on connecting with the program.”
With Davis in a flowing pink dress and White in black tails, the two embodied the song that began their three-minute program, I Could Have Danced All Night.
It was a song their choreographer had long been urging them to incorporate.
“(My Fair Lady ) was not a story we really knew much about,” said Davis. “But as we’ve grown with the program, we’ve fallen madly in love with the music. That song’s feeling of excitement, youthful exuberance and, I think, the genuine joy that many people have experienced, we like to think it comes across in the program.”
White added that if the appreciative audience got the impression that the two were dancing, sans skates, it’s what they were going for.
“That’s really evolved as the season has gone on,” he said. “Stepwise, choreographically, it’s a great place to show the dance and the feeling. We’re not rushing into a (required) element or thinking about what’s coming up. We can just really enjoy it.”
Three dance teams will advance from here to the Olympics next month in Sochi. In third place after the short program was the Boston brother-sister team of Maia and Alex Shibutani (68.00).
Elicia and Stephen Reynolds, who skate out of the Ice Works in Aston, Pa., were in 15th place with a score of 36.52.
Perhaps the only serious competition Davis and White will encounter between here and the gold-medal stand at Sochi are their training partners.
Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who also practice in Michigan, won gold at Vancouver in 2010 while the Americans took the silver.
This time, though, Davis and White, who would be the first Americans to do so, will arrive in Russia as the gold-medal favorites.
Is the weight of a nation — especially one experiencing a slump in figure skating’s other disciplines — too much pressure.
“No matter where we are or who we’re competing against, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” Davis said. “In addition to that, we know that this is the last performance before, hopefully, we head off to the Olympics. So we want to put on performances that are going to make that experience even more exciting.”