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Ice Dancing

Ice Dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White Shape Up for the Olympics

Written on November 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm , by

Meryl and Charlie danced their way to their third straight Skate America win late October. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Meryl Davis and Charlie White aren’t your typical college students. In between their studies at the University of Michigan, the most decorated U.S. ice dance team squeezes in agility, cardio and weight training, along with over five hours of ice time a day. A rigorous schedule—and resulting podium success—is nothing new for the duo. For 16 years now, Meryl and Charlie have been rising in the ranks together, taking home silver in the Vancouver Olympics and becoming the first U.S. ice dancing team to win World Championship gold.

Days before stopping by our office, the ice dancers added yet another accolade to their collection, their third Skate America crown for first place short and free dances in Kent, Washington. Now that’s how you start off the 2012-2013 season! We sat down with the champions, who dished their partnership secrets and training strategies for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Here’s what they had to say (and more!):

What is the biggest difference between ice dancing and pair skating?
CW: In ice dance it’s much more what you would imagine ballroom dancing to be. Closer positions, we’re holding each other like a lot of shows that you see, like So You Think You Can Dance…It’s sort of like that on ice, in a lot of respects, with the lifts that we do and some of the musical choices even, it’s comparable. In pairs, it’s more throwing the partner, lifting them above the head.
MD: We’re much more performance-based, for example we’re allowed to use lyrics in the music that we use, whereas pair skating they have to use instrumental music. It’s much more based on the elements for them, whereas for us, we’re trying to tell a story on the ice. It’s more about general impact, as opposed to going from one thing after another.

Walk us through your typical workout.
MD: We skate five days a week so we get the weekends off, which is nice, but typically we start on the ice around 7 or 8 a.m. Usually we’ll have an hour break somewhere in there, whether it’s an hour straight or two half-hour breaks, but we go for about five hours, sometimes six. When we’re done on the ice, we have a gym upstairs in the same facility where we workout and do some kind of cardio—3 days a week—weight training, agility, things like that. We throw some ballet in there sometimes, too. We avoid it at all costs.
CW: Yeah, [ballet] is a necessary evil for us. It’s never something we’ve embraced but it really helps with the skating, the posture, stuff like that.
MD: Our program this year is actually one of the most classical ballets, Giselle, so when we officially decided on doing that music this year, we unfortunately realized we weren’t going to avoid ballet this season.
CW: I do a lot of lifts with Meryl so it’s important that I have good shoulder stability so we’ll lay down a ladder, for instance, and do sort of agility. I’ll hold a kettlebell while I do it to sort of make sure I can transfer onto the ice that same sort of just balance and yet the strength with my shoulder…the most important thing is for skaters, especially, is just the core and making sure we’re strong through the core. Read more