Detroit — After winning the gold medal at the 2013 Skate America event in Joe Louis Arena over the weekend, Ann Arbor-based world champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White reflected on the emotions of their bright homecoming and the continuing preparation of their programs for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
They likely will be favored in February for the gold in Russia. But their minds are not there yet. And their routines, though already impressive, are not yet quite buffed to the sparkle they expect.
Despite the dominating 20-point win skating in front of a host of family and friends, skating in their hometown for the first time in more than a decade, White said he was more thoughtful than elated as they stood on the podium.
“I wasn’t necessarily struck by the moment so much as I was looking forward,” he said. “I feel like standing on the podium is a great time for reflection. After a skate like that, you start to think ahead of what you want to improve and what you want to show at the next event.
“It’s exciting to think about where it can go. We were really happy with how we skated, but we know how much better it can be.”
As the sparsely-attended Skate America Detroit event ended Sunday, the Russian pair, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, won gold. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin of the United States finished fourth.
Mao Asada of Japan won the ladies’ gold, beating Ashley Wagner of the United States by 11 points.
Davis and White long ago claimed a huge stake in international figure skating. They are two-time World Champions (2011, 2013) and silver medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and have a host of gold medals from other competitions.
Both were born and raised in Metro Detroit and still live there and in Ann Arbor, while training in Canton and attending the University of Michigan.
Davis, 26, said the free dance program, for which they received a lavish 112.53 score, more than 10 percent higher than the next competitors, is the product of considerable thought and preparation.
“It’s a program that’s been in the works for more than a season already,” she said, of their skate to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s classical piece, “Scheherazade.” “We are pleased with the direction it’s going in. We are confident with the material and feel we have a lot of room to grow with it still.”
White, who turns 26 Thursday, said he was pleased despite a bit of a glitch heading into a spin.
“It was definitely one of our best performances,” he said. “Specifically, the spin was a little bit of a hassle getting into it. But I loved the fight we showed. The crowd was into it, so it was fun. It gives you a little bit of extra energy. We were grateful for that.”
Maia and Alex Shibutani, who train with Davis and White and also attend Michigan, finished third in the ice dance.
Five of the eight teams participating in the ice dance train in Metro Detroit or Ann Arbor, including teams from Italy and Azerbaijan, continuing years of domination in the sport spurred by the arrival of Russian coaches like Marina Zueva (Davis and White and the Shibutanis), and Igor Shpilband, who coaches the Italians, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, and the Azerbaijanis, Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov.
A sixth team also had Michigan connections. Cathy and Chris Reed, also sister and brother, were born in Kalamazoo but live in Japan and skate for that country.
As the season continues, Davis and White said they are intent on tweaking and polishing their short and free dancing routines.
“We were happy with how we skated, but we know how much better we can be,” White said.
On the podium, as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played and family, friends and neighbors looked on, White said his thoughts were about that.
“I think just being excited for the next event, that’s really what I was thinking about,” he said. “Nothing too deep, but certainly something that you like to look back at, something to inspire you as you look forward.”