Olympic silver medalists easily win short dance

Posted Jan. 28, 2011, at 6:42 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2011, at 7:29 p.m.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — There’s no one in the U.S. who can compare with Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Keep skating this way, and there might not be anyone in the world who can touch them either.

The Olympic and world silver medalists easily won the short dance Friday afternoon at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, taking such a big lead the competition might as well be over. Davis and White scored 76.04 points, almost six points ahead of Maia and Alex Shibutani, last year’s U.S. junior champions. Just how big is the lead? Think early season routs in college football, and you get the idea.

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, who train in Canton, Mich., with Davis-White and the Shibutanis, were third. The free dance is Saturday.

“We’re looking for the world gold medal. That’s our goal,” White said. “Having these kids come up shows you have to have that hunger if you want to get that.”

The men’s short program is later Friday.

Americans have never won a world or Olympic title in dance, and Davis and White would like to see that streak end — the sooner, the better. Though Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir added the world gold medal to their Olympic medal last spring, Davis and White beat the Canadians in the free dance.

While Virtue and Moir skipped the Grand Prix season as she recovered from October surgery, Davis and White showed they are second to none. They won both of their Grand Prix events, then captured the Grand Prix final for a second straight year.

Another U.S. title was all but a given, but Davis and White didn’t let down for a second.

“We recognize the importance of staying on top of our game,” White said. “We can’t just say, ‘Oh, we’ve got our Olympic silver medals and we can just mail it in.’ It’s never going to cut it, especially with teams this talented.”

The short dance is a new event this competitive season, replacing the compulsory and original dances. A specific dance is chosen — the golden waltz for nationals — and, like the original dance, couples must create their own interpretation of it. That interpretation, however, must include one pattern of the dance’s steps from the old compulsories.

Davis and White’s waltz to music from “La Boheme” and “La Traviata” was so captivating it transformed the Greensboro Coliseum into an old European ballroom, complete with grand chandeliers and parquet hardwood floors. With her in a peach ball gown and him looking like a count in a tuxedo vest and formal white shirt, they oozed elegance and passion. Appearing to float across the rink as they did their side-by-side straightline footwork, they made fans forget they were on a sheet of ice.

The end of the dance was highlighted with two spectacular lifts that had the crowd roaring with approval. They received the maximum level fours for all of their elements.

“It didn’t feel perfect,” White said. “It felt really, really good, but there’s timing, there’s expression, there’s use of the body. Just a lot of little things that might not be noticeable but will add up to a perfect performance.”

The Shibutanis showed the polish and class of a top team at any level, also receiving level fours for all of their elements. With most teams, it was easily apparent to see where the prescribed steps come in the program, like going from one cut of music to another. But the Shibutanis were so creative in the way they blended the different segments of the dance, it looked as if that was the way the golden waltz was always intended.

And their twizzles, oh my.

The fast-turning traveling spins are done on one foot, and doing them without toppling over is a feat in itself. Now imagine doing them in unison with someone else. To the beat of the music. Oh, and do three different sets of them, one right after the other. It’s enough to make fans dizzy, let alone the skaters. But the Shibutanis did them in spectacular fashion, staying perfectly in sync the entire time.

“A lot of hard work,” Maia Shibutani said of how they mastered the element.

“And they’re not always that good,” her brother chimed in. “We like doing twizzles. That helps, too.”

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