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Ice dancing champions to lead strong lineup at Skate America
Golden performances in the Skate America showcase have become somewhat routine for the Meryl Davis and Charlie White juggernaut.
The national event often brings out the best in the country's most decorated ice dancing team, a title-winning machine from Michigan that is poised to open the competitive figure skating season next weekend at the ShoWare Center.
Technically sound and swift, the reigning four-time U.S. national champions are shooting for a three-peat in the Hilton HHonors Skate America.
"It's going to be a good, early test," said White, 24, who along with Davis has produced a long career of international greatness, including the 2011 World title and the 2010 Olympic silver medal. "It's going to be a good way to sort of show ourselves at the beginning of the year, sort of set the standard for everyone because it's the first major competition.
"We are really looking to do that, make our mark and sort of announce to the world that we're ready, regardless of who we are competing against," White said. "That's the most important thing – to go out there and do our best, no matter who shows up."
Competition on Kent ice begins next Friday, continues Saturday and concludes Sunday. The event is the first of six stops in the 2012–13 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating, a series of senior-level invitational competitions.
Medals will be awarded in the disciplines of men's singles, ladies' singles, pair skating and ice dancing. Skaters also will earn points toward qualifying for the Grand Prix final.
Davis and White – the only American ice dancing team to ever win the World championship and the country's longest lasting dance duo – will have their hands full. The field is stacked with top international teams, including Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who finished fourth in the 2012 World championships. Davis and White, the 2011 World champions, settled for second.
Russian's Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev – European silver medalists who were seventh in the recent World championship – also are expected to compete in Kent.
Davis and White don't know what the ShoWare Center will bring this weekend, but the seasoned, world-class competitors have embraced the Pacific Northwest, having shined in major competition at Spokane and scoring silver at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Beginning the season, more or less, on home ice is very important to them.
"It's special to use because we are skating on American soil," said Davis, 25. "It definitely varies from one venue to the next, and when you have a great audience, one that's supportive and excited, it can make a huge difference. That's what we are hoping for when we come to Kent."
Added White: "We've had some really great experiences in the Pacific Northwest. I don't know what it is exactly attributable to, but we're expecting the same thing. It is going to be a great event. Some really top ice dance teams will be there."
The Davis-White team – current world record holders for the short dance – has worked on fresh material to enhance an already complicated routine. They continue to train nearby Ann Arbor, where they both attend the University of Michigan (he studies political science, she, anthropology and Italian).
Those changes in their program will be evident in the couple's passionate free dance program.
"It's a real departure for us from all of our programs because we really started to connect more on the ice than ever before," White said. "It's something we talked about ... with the choreography ... and we hope it pays off this year."
While they have always taken matters one year at a time, Davis and White have all but announced their intentions to compete for the 2014 Olympic gold in Russia.
For now, it's beginning steps on a smaller but important stage in Kent.
"It's nerve racking to finally show the world what we have been working on the past couple of months," Davis said. "We are looking forward to competing in Kent."
Tickets are available at www.2012skateamerica.com/tickets, the ShoWare ticket office, or by calling 253-856-6999.
NBC will broadcast live coverage of Skate America on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Skaters will compete for $180,000 in prize money at the Kent event, including $18,000 for the winners in each division; $13,000 for second; $9,000 for third; $3,000 for fourth; and $2,000 for fifth.
For more information about the Grand Prix Series, including the complete list of events and skater selections, go to www.isu.org