Cheryl Davis, left, mother of Meryl Davis, and Jacqui White, mother of Charlie White, say the pair pushed themselves to be champions. (Todd McInturf / Detroit News)
Canton — Imagine you are a parent and your kids, early on, find an activity they love and they begin to dedicate themselves, and you, to it.
Years later, things work out so well, they become the objects of intense praise and scrutiny as favorites for an Olympic gold medal. Are you mostly content, or do you worry what all of the hoopla will do to your child?
If you are Cheryl Davis or Jacqui White, the mothers of two-time World Champions and six-time U.S. Champion ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White — a couple of kids from Metro Detroit and the University of Michigan who may well become among the most noted American athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics — apparently you do not worry much.
“They’re handling it pretty much the way they handle everything; they’re taking it in stride,” said Jacqui White of Bloomfield Township.
“They keep their feet on the ground. Their heads are not up in a cloud. And I think we feel the same way.”
Sitting next to White, as their children posed for promotional videos and photographs for the games and then skated in practice with their coach, Marina Zoueva, Davis agreed.
“I don’t really think they’ve changed that much,” she said. “They take the opportunity to do more nice things.
“They give even more attention to the kids at the rink and they are great mentors.
“Even at the nationals last week in Boston, with younger kids coming up at the nationals, I felt like we saw a lot of talking and laughing and being with those kids,” Davis said.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White captured significant attention in the United States with their silver medal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Their friendship with their training partners in Canton, the Canadian ice dancing duo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won the gold, became a staple story of the Games.
But having passed Virtue and Moir in their performances in recent years, Davis and White are a focus of the skating world. As they make final preparations for Sochi, the media corps tracking their progress has grown from a single, very occasional visitor, four years ago, to a throng of reporters and photographers.
“It’s definitely a lot different, this time,” Davis said after practice, with a self-assured, matter-of-fact smile and laugh that underlined her comfort with the situation, despite the press of attention.
The readily apparent self-possession of the two great hopes for Olympic gold is striking, and of little surprise to their moms.
“They’re the same kids they’ve always been,” Jacqui White said. “They behave the same way, when they’re around the family. And they’re around the family all the time.
“I think we keep them grounded.”
Regardless, it can be a situation of some concern.
“I think it’s hard, sometimes, when you get to the top and people want to pull you down,” Cheryl Davis said. “And people say some things and they’re cruel sometimes.
“But I think our kids take it in stride. And they have to believe in themselves.”
The two moms could probably write a book on how to raise children, especially talented kids who are fairly obsessed with an activity that enthralls them from an early age — whether that is figure skating, playing the piano, learning the sciences or any activity.
“I think in some ways you just kind of let them chose their passion, and then it goes from there,” Davis said. “You really can’t push somebody into something they don’t have a passion about.”
“All kids are different,” White said. “But something I definitely learned about Charlie along the way is just to let them be the one to push you.
“They know what they want to do. And if it’s something they feel passionate about, just be there to support them, if they need something.
“And know when to give them some space and some room, and let it be their thing.”