Meryl Davis, Charlie White to sit out 2018 Olympics

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

They rose from the figure skating hub of suburban Detroit to international stardom.

Now, Meryl Davis and Charlie White are extending their respite away from competition.

The most accomplished U.S. ice dancers in history announced in Manhattan Wednesday they will not defend their Olympic gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

They are also passing on a fourth consecutive season of international competition.

Instead, they will pursue things life has to offer when one is not on the ice hour-after-hour trying to master ice dancing to the point of being judged the best in the world.

“There are so many positives to competing,” White said. “But I think just expanding our lives outside of competitive skating is really what we’re enjoying in our lives so much right now.”

They will skate in the Stars on Ice tour beginning in April, and participate in a new youth development program for children from Detroit, Figure Skating in Detroit, which was announced at the Christmas tree lighting program in Campus Martius last year. It is based on the Figure Skating in Harlem youth development program

Davis and White said they will remain involved in international figure skating. There are likely multiple roles awaiting them, in their sport.

They have already appeared as commentators for NBC, and White was a choreographer during the recent U.S. National Championships.

Like coaching, choreography is an essential competitive role in ice dancing.

They did not want to say they are retiring from international competition.

“I think the main thing today is, it’s not about retirement,” White said, of their announcement Wednesday on the NBC program “Today.”

“It’s about taking the year and not competing at the Olympics, because it was such a big question for everybody.”

In figure skating, in fact, it is a question in the air constantly since they left the ice in triumph at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi.

Davis, 30, and White, 29, also needed to decide for themselves, only in part because training for competition is utterly different than training for shows. Time had become a factor.

It was a tough decision, Davis said. But she would not describe it as agonizing.

“That’s because we really allowed ourselves to take as much time as we needed,” she said. “Had we felt under pressure to make the decision quickly, or just trying to figure it out as soon as possible, it may have been agonizing. And it probably would have been.

“We really allowed ourselves to take the time and come to the conclusion naturally, I think it was as pleasant a process as possible.

“We’ve been calling it bittersweet since talking about it today,” Davis said. “Because of course it’s disappointing, in a way, because the Olympics are such an amazing honor.”

Their decision finally made, Wednesday was yet another big day in their careers, launched with the help of coach Marina Zueva, at the Arctic Edge in Canton.

‘Bit of a downer’

After the years of consideration, White began announcing the decision on the broadcast by saying, “I hate to be maybe a little bit of a downer for our fans. We’ve decided not to compete at the Olympics.”

Davis described their lives since Sochi, without the intensive periods of competition and training, as liberating.

“We have spent a lot of time on the ice mostly for figure skating tours and shows that we absolutely love doing,” she said.

“We have had an opportunity since not competing to focus on really just opening up our horizons and figuring out other passions we might have, and to pursue them for other opportunities.

“Our past experience is it’s hard to have that opportunity in the competitive world.

“We are excited to be figuring out exactly what those passions might be.”

That may include some involvement in the Olympics next year, in South Korea, including the prospect of continuing some broadcasting.

“We’re hopeful and excited at the prospect of staying a part of, you know, just the way it all works,” White said.

“I think it would really be a special opportunity for us to be able to go and cover it in anyway.”

If, indeed, their stunning performance with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade" before a knowledgeable audience in Russia three years ago was their last international performance, they left on top of the world.

Davis and White are the greatest U.S. ice dancers of all time.

They are the only Americans to win the Olympic gold medal. They hold the Olympic record score.

They are the only American world champions. They did it twice.

Davis and White are six-time U.S. national champions, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, two-time world silver medalists, five-time Grand Prix Final champions and three-time Four Continents Champions.

They also won a bronze medal in the team event at Sochi.