For the first time in Olympic history, there's a team figure skating competition. It started Thursday with performances by the Mens and Pairs. It continues this weekend with Ice Dancing. The U.S. is off to a rough start, but is counting on Michigan's own Charlie White and Meryl Davis to gain some ground.
Seven out of 15 skaters on the U.S. Olympic team sharpened their skills on Michigan ice. Among them, all 6 members of the Ice Dance Team. Charlie White is a native Michigander. He lives and trains in Metro Detroit. “I think it's really exciting as native Michiganders to be a part of something so special as having tons and tons of successful, not just ice dancers, but figure skaters from the area." White and his partner Meryl Davis have been skating together for 17 years. They’re 6-time U.S. National Champions, have a Silver Olympic Medal, and now they want the Gold. Davis says, “Certainly we think about it most often when we're asked about it. But when we're practicing, we're heading into competition, we're really focused on skating the best we can and I think we know that if we skate the best we can, we're setting ourselves up to be in a good position to fight for that medal."
For the last 6 years, Davis and White have shared a rink and a coach, with Alex Shibutani and Maia Shibutani. This is the first Olympics for the flamboyant brother and sister, who are rising stars at World and National competitions. The Shibutanis call Davis and White, mentors and friends. Maia Shibutani says, “I think we're just really different teams. I think that they've had such an amazing career so far and it's been so great for us to train with them, but I think something that we're trying to bring and focus at the Olympics is really just engaging the audience and pulling them into our programs." Alex Shibutani agrees. “We know that if we skate our best, we'll be happy regardless. The judges decide the result. The ice dance event in Sochi is going to be incredibly competitive. We're so happy to be considered one of the top teams in the world."
Another Michigan Ice Dance team representing the USA, is Evan Bates and Madison Chock. They paired up a few years ago, after Bates competed in the 2010 Olympic games with then-partner Emily Samuelson. This year at U.S. Nationals in Boston, Chock and Bates placed 2nd behind Davis and White. Bates says, “Charlie and I were college roommates actually, and I also lived with Alex Shibutani and now we're all kind of battling it out. But really, the friendship is much stronger than the competitive nature of the sport."
Jeremy Abbott is the 7th Olympic figure skater with ties to Michigan. He trains at the Detroit Skating Club. Five of the U.S. Ice Dancers are also big fans of the Maize and Blue. Evan Bates graduated from the University of Michigan in December. Davis, White, and the Shibutanis are still working on their degrees in Ann Arbor.