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Skate Today

Davis and White Deliver the Goods and Head to Vancouver as America’s Number One Dancers

The packed house at Spokane Arena leapt to their feet before reigning Ice-Dance Champions Meryl Davis, 22 , and Charlie White, 22 , completed their final element of their “Phantom of the Opera” free dance — a level four rotational lift. Picking up a new personal best score of 108.76 points for their free dance the duo sailed to the top of the leader board with a competition total scire of 222.29 points and captured the gold medal.

Despite a misstep by Davis on the synchronized twizzles in their Indian-theme original dance, it was an instant hit with the crowd here in Spokane.

The program skated to the soundtrack from the movie “Devdas” by Nusret Badr was jam-packed with technical difficulty.

“It is a story based on an Indian folk tale about an Indian God, who is playing a flute to call the women in the village to him,” White told Skatetoday earlier this season.

With Davis donning a modified Ghagara choli and White outfitted in traditional Sheerwani garb the dancers portrayed an authentic Kathak dance from Northern India complete with hand gestures, that represented actual words.

“We worked with an Indian folk dancer that we found near where Charlie and I go to school in Arbor,” Meryl explained. “She worked a lot with us on our movement and on our hand gestures, and she helped us pick the music. Every gesture has a meaning. We wanted to make the program as authentic as possible. Our moms designed our costumes,” she added. They are based on designs we found in a magazine.“

Their opening mid-line non-touching steps were near-perfect, and they were awarded perfect GOE’s (Grades of Execution) from seven of the nine judges. The curve lift that followed was equally as strong, and again they were awarded seven +3 GOE’s for that element. Their circular steps were called level three by the technical panel and awarded mostly +2 GOE’s, but after the mistake on the synchronized twizzles their GOE’s ranged from 0 to +2.

“It wasn’t our best skate of our lives, but we’re happy,” White said of the performance. “But we’re happy. The crowd seemed to get into it and we went for the component scores and I think we accomplished that,” the reigning Champion added.

The attention paid to detail in this program is what has made this memorable. When their segment score of 68.11 points was combined with that of their compulsory dance score of 46.42 points they entered the free dance with a cushion of 1.62 points.

Their free dance was a masterpiece and was packed with passion and excitement. It engaged the audience from their opening move a level 3 combination spin to the perfect final rotational lift that received straight GOE’s of +3 from the judging panel.

Despite a one- point deduction for an extended lift the duo received perfect marks on three of the seven elements of the program to earn them, their second National Title and an Olympic berth in Vancouver.

“I think it’s a testament to our training and everything that we’ve put into skating in our 13 years,” White explained. “To come out at nationals and beat such an amazing team with the credentials that they have, is huge for us especially going into the Olympics. We’re going to take that (all in) and run with it.”

Their near-perfect component scores ranged from a low of 9.50 for linking footwork to a high of 9.75 for performance..

“Tanith and Ben are remarkable skaters, and they have done so much for ice dancing here in America,” White explained. “They have been excellent role models, and we admire them very much.”

The Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin , 25, and Benjamin Agosto, 28, were equally as gracious despite losing the title they held for five years (Belbin and Agosto missed the 2009 Championships due to Agosto’s back injury).

“Charlie and Meryl work very hard, and we could see when we were training with them how fast they were improving,” Agosto stated. “We knew then they would become a force in the world of ice dance.”

Belbin and Agosto showed improved power and strength in their Moldavian folk dance, which earned the four-time world medalists second place marks of 66.89 points. Their straight-line lift and synchronized twizzles were graded level four by the technical panel while there no touch midline steps and circular steps were awarded a level three. They skated with speed, but seemed to slow down on the footwork.

After words of Wisdom from their coach Gennodi Karponosov to “skate for the people, skate for yourself.” Belbin and Agosto stood at center ice.

The most decorated American ice dancers in history and the first to claim an Olympic ice dance medal in thirty-two years stepped it up in the free dance delivering a gracefull performance to “Ave Maria” and “Amen”. The performance was touching, but it lacked the engagement withf the audience that Davis and White had with “Phantom”.

The dramatic presentation was sure-footed and displayed some wonderful highlight moves, and the synchronized twizzles and rotational lift was superb.

It was the final national’s performance for Belbin and Agosto, one that earned them a silver medal with a world-class score of 218.51 points.

“We kind of went into this (competition) with more satisfaction,” Belbin said of their final national competition, “And I think that it can be misunderstood that we’ve lost some of that drive. We haven’t. We’ve just learned that there is always going to be more, and you are always going to want to improve. But we have to learn how to enjoy the process. That’s what we are doing this year for the first time ever (in our career) and it’s creating a poetic final season for us.”

After placing fourth in the compulsory dance the “Tango Romantica” Michigan University students Emily Samuelson, 19, and Evan Bates, 20 delivered a lively performance to a Dixie Chicks Medley.

The high-steppin folk dance was the perfect vehicle to express their personalities and strengths on the ice. The reigning national silver medalists had the audience in the palms of their hands within the first thirty seconds of the program.

Their well-matched lines, deep edges and toe-point is first-rate and the unison of their elements was spot-on. The choreography and attention to detail highlighted the performance and the 2008 World Junior Champions sparkled and lit-up the ice picking up 59.60 points en-route to a bronze medal.

“Let’s go Bates” was yelled by Charlie White from the Kiss ‘N Cry as his roommate Evan Bates and partner Emily Samuelson took to the ice for their free dance.

Skating to “Canto Della Terra” by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli the Michigan based skaters exceeded their expectations and qualified for an ticket to Vancouver in February.

They managed five level four elements with positive GOE’s, but the midline steps were level three and the circular steps was declared a mere level two by the technical panel. They were awarded a segment score of 93.73 points for the free dance to claim the bronze medal overall with an event total of 190.69 points. The duo eclipsed fourth place finishers Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre by 4.27 points for the final berth on the 2010 Olympic Team.

“Watching the Olympics four years ago, we didn’t really think that 2010 was in the realm of a possibility,” Bates said. ” But then we progressed quicker than we thought we might have and success has come and now that we have made the team it seems very overwhelming.”

“This just seems so surreal,” Samuelson added. “We just feel honored to be part of this Olympic team.”

Kimberly Navarro, 28, and Brent Bommentre, 25, smashed their season’s best score by 17 points after an emotional free dance to “One” by U2 and Mary J. Blige — that left their coaches in tears.

Navarro and Bommentre were ranked third in the compulsory dance but slid to second in the original dance after Navarro struggled on a twizzle, but otherwise delivered three solid programs and are first alternates to the 2010 Olympic and World Championship teams.

2009 Junior World Champions Madison Chock, 16, was exquisite while performing with partner Greg Zuerlein, 21, to finish fifth in their debut at the senior level with 177.48 points. With eyes firmly focused on the Olympics in 2014 the duo makes rapid progress toward reaching their goal.

Brother and sister Madison Hubbell and Kieffer Hubbell also show great promise finishing sixth with 173.87 points.

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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