By Barry Wilner
SOCHI, Russia: There’s nothing world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White don’t know about defending Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. And vice versa.
It’s only fitting that the longtime training partners and rivals who share the same coach will have another face-off for a title at the Sochi Olympics tonight.
They did it four years ago in Vancouver, when the Canadians thrilled the home crowd by edging the Americans. This time, Davis and White are ahead by 2.56 points after winning the short dance.
“We’re focused on the moment and the task at hand: the free dance,” White said Sunday night as coach Marina Zoueva beamed, watching her four students joking and interacting at a news conference. “We’re not looking to the future or the color of the medals. We have had a great start to this event and we treat it like any other event.”
What the two leaders have is a comfortable margin over Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, which pretty much means another showdown for a major championship between the Americans and Canadians, who train together in Canton, Mich.
“We want that gold medal,” Moir said, “but obviously we know they are great skaters and how hard they work and that they will bring a great skate.”
White credits the development of the two teams to simply having each other around. Each couple has won two world titles — the Canadians have three silvers and a bronze, too, while the Americans own two silvers. They’ve established North America as the capital of ice dance when, for decades, the discipline belonged to Europeans, mostly Russians.
White said these games have extra meaning for all of them because of their past experiences together.
“Having been through one Olympics together, and the maturation process,” he said, “and then coming into the season and we kind of made it through this battle together, it’s such a special moment for all of us and Marina.”
Zoueva must remain neutral, of course, so when she said she was “excited” by the performances of her charges in the short dance, it was predictable. But she also provided some insight into what both teams would face in the free dance.
“They train together nine years, in the same group and on the same ice with each other since they were babies,” Zoueva said. “They are like a generation, and they are still skating together and grew up and made the same progress and go on together.
“It will be a great free dance. They both are really strong couples and with the free dance there is more chance to [impress], more chance to get points.”
Davis and White will try to pile up their points skating to Sheherazade and will go 20th and last. Virtue and Moir have a program of Russian classical music and skate 17th.