Shy US figure skaters find their feet to win Sochi gold
US gold medallists Meryl Davis and Charlie White pose after winning the figure skating ice dance competition during the Sochi Games on February 17, 2014 - by Damien Meyer
A spellbinding four minutes on the ice from the pair from Bloomfield, Michigan, was the culmination of 17 years of hard work as they broke their own world record score to seal gold with 195.52 points.
Second on the podium stood their long-time rivals -- Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue -- the Canadians with whom they train at Arctic Edge in Canton, Michigan, under the same Russian coach -- Marina Zoueva.
Davis and White began dancing together in 1997 at a rink in suburban Detroit. Living 10 minutes apart, they started skating together in elementary school.
But the first time they were together on the ice, Davis, 27, was so shy that she would not look her partner in the eye -- so the teacher put a sticker on his forehead.
"We were super shy, we didn't really say anything to each other but it was a really nice feeling," recalled 26-year-old White.
"The first time we skated together I'd already been doing ice dance for six months. She hadn't done it at all so I was a little annoyed that I had to go back a few dances that were lower level.
"But having said that, it was pretty obvious that she was going to hold her own no matter what we did. I remember being really impressed that she'd never done it before and we were sticking together like glue."
- 'Grown up together' -
Davis added: "We've grown up together in every sense of the word."
The US pair took Olympic silver in Vancouver, and world titles in 2011 and 2013, but have dominated the sport for the past two years, emerging on top in the rivalry with 2010 gold medallists Virtue and Moir, who won silver with 190.99 points.
Their US pair's performance to "Scheherazade" on Monday in Sochi's Iceberg Skating Palace, a tale of a wicked sultan who marries and beheads a bride each day, was complex, full of lifts and twists and turns and rich with emotion.
"Charlie and I are very different in a lot of ways but we use those differences to our advantage and we balance each other out extremely well," said Davis. "In terms of our partnership there hasn't been a moment of doubt."
After Davis and White were accepted into the University of Michigan and moved to Ann Arbor, they started training under Zoueva .
"She has a unique look, unique personality," Zoueva said of Davis. "For me, I call her Little Flower."
Zoueva, a 57-year-old former Russian ice dancer in the Soviet era, was able to get White to express his emotion more. "They are very intelligent, amazing," she said.
Russian coach Yevgeny Platov, the only ice dancer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 1994 and 1998 with Oksana Grishuk, said Davis and White were now in a league of their own.
"They skate above the ice, they look like they're flying," Platov said.
"They're like a feather. What they do is super light. Whatever they do, is just light, every step."
Detroit, once the world's automobile capital, has now become the world's ice dancing centre, with 15 of the 24 Olympic ice dancing teams in Sochi training there -- nine at the Novi Ice Arena, three at the Detroit Skating Club and three in Canton.
"I think that coaching has been a really big part of that and we are so fortunate to have that in North America right now," Davis added.