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In this March 16, 2013, file photo, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, of the United States, perform during the free skate program in the ice dancing competition at the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario. Not only are the ice dancers the best, and perhaps only, chance for a U.S. figure skating medal at the Sochi Olympics, the expectations are that it will be gold.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White don't like talking about placements or medals, which is fine because everyone else will be doing enough of it for them between now and the Sochi Olympics.
And about one color of medal in particular.
Only a decade removed from the days when a top-10 finish was cause for U.S. ice dancers to celebrate, Davis and White are co-favorites for gold in Sochi. They've already given the U.S. its first world titles in dance, and their winning performances at last year's world championships showed they might have the edge on the only other team that comes close, defending Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.
"There are a lot of things swirling around and so many different ways you could go if you allow outside pressures to affect you," White said. "The good news is, the pressure that we put on ourselves is probably greater than being the only potential Olympic medalist for your country or, back in the day, when we were trying to become the first American world ice dance champions.
"You can't really worry about that too much and, through our experience, that's something Meryl and I have learned to do," he said. "Every day we go in and we're working hard. We're not thinking about medals, we're not thinking about placements. We're thinking about improving ourselves day to day so that when we get there, we have the best opportunity, and we know we've put ourselves in the best (position) to achieve the best results."
Right. An Olympic gold medal.
Davis and White, who open the Grand Prix season Friday at Skate America in their hometown of Detroit, were "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" when they went to the Vancouver Olympics. Though they had won that season's Grand Prix final, as well as two U.S. titles, they were considered up-and-comers behind reigning Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
They'd never made the podium at the world championships, missing the bronze medal by a mere 0.04 points in 2009. Even their Grand Prix final victory came against a field lacking the top skaters.
Yet it was Davis and White who took the silver — decisively.
"The biggest thing we learned at the last Olympics was just that we could handle any scenario and that no stage is too big for us," White said. "We realized how much confidence we should have in ourselves based on how hard we worked. If you put in the work, it pays off. And I think sometimes it's hard to truly believe that until you test it out on the big stage, and that's exactly what we were able to do at the last games.
"Coming away with the silver medal after never having won a world medal was huge for our confidence and believing in ourselves and understanding that what we're doing every day, day in and day out, was working for us, and just to continue that trend."
Since Vancouver, Davis and White have won three more U.S. titles — by huge margins — and haven't finished lower than second at any competition. And their rivalry with Virtue and Moir, who are also their training partners, is the best thing going in all of figure skating.
The Canadians added the world title to their Olympic gold in 2010, with the Americans runners-up again. Davis and White claimed the top spot the following year, a first for a U.S. dance team, with Virtue-Moir finishing second. The teams swapped places again in 2012.
Last year's world championships were held in Virtue and Moir's hometown of London, Ontario, but the Americans spoiled their homecoming. Not only did Davis and White win the title, but the margin (4.52 points) between the two teams was the largest it had been at worlds since Vancouver, and the Americans' programs showed a level of sophistication the Canadians simply could not match.
"We're really lucky to be able to train with them day in and day out," White said. "They're such a fantastic team, and have such great qualities on the ice that when you watch them, you're just amazed. So it really keeps Meryl and I on our toes as to how we want to show ourselves."
As in years past, the teams were assigned to different Grand Prixs. The earliest they could see each other will be the Grand Prix final in December.
"We're not worrying too much about our competition," Moir said. "We'll go out and try to gain some momentum, and get ready for meeting Meryl and Charlie at the finals."
Then comes the big showdown in Sochi.
"I think that we're more prepared for what to expect when we get there, which is a good feeling," Davis said. "But I think we also definitely expect more out of ourselves in these games. We were hoping to go into the 2010 Games and skate the best programs we could, and we were thrilled to be able to do so. But we're really hungry this time for the absolute best performances of our lives. That's what we're training for every day."