Figure Skating: From the Boards

National Treasures: Davis and White January 29, 2013

What an incredible week it has been. I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to be in Omaha with the Icenetwork team, but I was even more thrilled to have the chance to witness the magic that is the U.S. Championships.

There’s something so very special about Nationals; something that can’t be replicated. The week provides moments that you can’t find anywhere else. There is magic in the air from the very first day, and it continues on through the moments the skaters create — both for themselves, and for those of us fortunate enough to witness them.

As I think back on this week, there are several such memories that I will treasure, and I will, no doubt, recount many of them here. But the moment that stands out most — more than the Gracie Gold comeback, or the Max Aaron shocker, more than the unpredictable or the dramatic — is, perhaps, the most predictable moment of all.

DSCN0171When Meryl Davis and Charlie White took to the ice for their Free Dance on Saturday, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were about to earn their fifth straight U.S. title.

No doubt. Not even a glimmer. The rest of the final group, though exceptional in their own right, didn’t stand a chance. Not for gold, anyway.

Meryl and Charlie could have bought into that; they could have gone through the motions, saving their energy and effort for their World Championship skate. They still would have been great. They still would have won. But that afternoon, we witnessed what makes great skaters great champions.

This Notre Dame de Paris program was a bit of a risk, taking the teammates — talented as anyone in the world — across uncharted waters emotionally. “They don’t evoke any romance,” the doubters said. “There’s no connection between the two of them, no chemistry.”

I beg to differ.

Meryl and Charlie did this week what skaters like Michelle Kwan did year after year. They set the tone from the first move, and held the audience in the palm of their hand for the next four minutes, bringing tears to each eye and bodies out of every seat.

Each look, each touch was relevant. Each move was a physical expression of the love story they were portraying. The difficulty in what they were doing physically is astounding. Their feet never stop, their holds constantly evolve from one difficult connection to the next. Their lifts acted as the perfect highlights to connect the moments of sweet romance to the fiery passion.

davis white nationalsThen, they got to the middle section that was reworked after the Grand Prix final. They slowed down the frenzy, took time to really gaze at one another, shared the moment, and almost eliminated the audience for a brief second. They took a moment to face one another in an arabesque, lock eyes, gently brush their fingers across one another’s faces … that moment, for me, pushed this entire program from “brilliant” to “masterpiece.” That was the missing element that may have given the detractors cause for doubting their on-ice chemistry.

It sounds silly, I know, that the most simplistic move in the program pushed it over the top. But, it was in that moment that the chill bumps formed on my arms, and the tears began to well. You could feel the energy in the arena build, and I just kept thinking, “This is the kind of moment skaters live for, and the kind of moment fans hope for at the U.S. Nationals.”

As Meryl and Charlie exploded to the end of their gold-medal skate, they audience rose to meet them at the finish. At the end of the night, just thinking about their skate made my eyes well up. Watching it back again today, I was holding back tears yet again.

I don’t know what it was, other than the fact that, despite knowing the competition was in the bag, they rose up to meet the moment, pushing themselves to give just that much more, and in doing so, gave everyone in that building a moment they’ll be hard pressed to forget.

Meryl and Charlie, you are a National Treasure.

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4 Responses to “National Treasures: Davis and White”

  1. I felt exactly the way you did! I’ve watched this program grow since SA 2012 and cried through the entire NBC broadcast. That one little change from the GPF caught my eye & heart, too. You described it beautifully! I cried again just reading your blog. Davis & White have been my favorite ice dancers since their “Samson & Delilah” program (I always thought they had a ‘connection’); loved the Strauss FD last year; but “Notre Dame de Paris” (written way back in 1998 as a sung-through musical) was very special. For them to (1) find that music and (2) keep tweaking the choreography all year was very special. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. http://www.examiner.com/article/a-cinematic-masterpiece-four-minutes-long-davis-white-s-nationals-free-dance. Oh, no, it wasn’t just you. I googled newspaper articles and also get examiner.com online (Jackie Wong’s updates on international figure skating). Read what guest writer/choreographer G. Kling had to say! Writers are using all kinds of superlatives about that program, and I know that real figure skating aficionados around the world, especially those who appreciate Davis & White, felt the same way. The Nat’l FD is not on YT, but fortunately the GPF FD is; look for the one w/commentary by British Eurosport announcers.

  3. Karon Williams Says:

    I’ve loved Davis and White since I saw them at their first Nationals in Cleveland in 2000. They were only 6th in the Novice event, but, even back then, I could see they had that special “something” that true champions have. I’ve been fortunate enough to be at EVERY Nationals in which they have competed and have watched their amazing growth that continues even now, in spite of being two-time World Champions. What a shame that attention has turned away from figure skating in recent years and the spotlight that shined on Michelle Kwan is not trained on Davis and White. They are wonderful ambassadors for their sport and their country and deserve so much more recognition than what they receive from the “in-the-know” skating fans. It has been fun watching the evolution of “Notre Dame” and seeing it carry them to an udefeated season and their second World Title. Thanks for the moving recap of that magical afternoon in Omaha and I can’t WAIT to see what Marina comes up with for NEXT season!


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