Olympic champion Charlie White alternates between blades, dance shoes

craig.sailor@thenewstribune.comMay 16, 2014 

In the end, 16 years worth of work came down to just four minutes. That was all the time Charlie White and Meryl Davis needed to become the first-ever American ice dancing Olympic champions this February in Sochi, Russia.

Since then the pair have kept a hectic schedule performing, touring with “Stars on Ice” show and appearing on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

White and Davis were first paired in 1997, making them the longest-running ice dancing partnership in the history of U.S. figure skating. During that time they steadily climbed the ranks of the U.S. and international ice dancing world and earned enough gold medals to cause serious neck strain.

White, 26, started skating at age 3, first playing hockey before turning his blades toward figure skating. The newspaper caught up with him before a “Stars on Ice” show in Manchester, New Hampshire. The show moves Sunday to KeyArena in Seattle.

Q: How do you juggle performing in “Stars on Ice” while appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” live broadcasts?

A: I’m not going to lie, it’s been a real challenge. But we’re enjoying it so much. I love being a part of “Stars on Ice” — it’s our second time. And the opportunity to be on “Dancing with the Stars” is ridiculous. We don’t want to take it for granted. Despite our being tired, all of our enthusiasm is going into everything we’re doing.

Q: What are we going to see in “Stars on Ice?”

A: It’s a great show. First and foremost, it’s a celebration of our Olympic theme. We had so many great skaters come together and really bond as a family over there. The level of skating is maybe at the highest it’s ever been for the show, talentwise. Then you add in the fact that we’re coming off the Olympics … we have the opportunity to celebrate with the U.S., the people we were representing at the games. It seems to be bringing a sense of joy to the ice that is really palpable.

Q: What’s it like trading in your ice skates for dancing shoes?

A: There are lots of moments where I just think to myself, ‘It would be so much easier if I could just be on skates right now.’ As silly as that sounds. Even I recognize that walking is easier than skating, but for me it’s so natural to feel comfortable and confidant and look like I know what I’m doing when I have skates on — when I feel like I have that kind of control over my movements. When you put me on the (dance) floor, it’s a totally different way of moving. It’s hard to grasp, the way dancers transfer their balance on their feet. For us, it’s just sliding around. It’s something that I’ve been really working hard to make look natural.

Q: What’s it been like competing against Meryl instead of with her?

A: Coming off of the Olympics, it’s the most stressful period of our lives and one of the most exciting. While we’ve been partners for 16 years, we understand each other and have a good feeling for what the other is going through. Because of that we feel like we’re there for each other and supporting each other. “Dancing with the Stars” is like ice dancing. You only have control over what you’re doing. You can’t worry about the competition. You just worry about self-improvement. The competition aspect hasn’t entered into our relationship and I don’t expect it will.

Q: How tired are you of being asked if you and Meryl are romantically involved with each other?

A: It’s a compliment. Everyone pretty much knows that I’m in a relationship with the very beautiful (and fellow ice dancer) Tanith Belbin. Meryl and I take it as a compliment because part of what we do is acting on the ice. It’s important to look like you’re in a relationship. You have to make it believable. That’s what we work hard on.

Q: You have the same coach as two-time world medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Is that a friendly competition or do you shoot ice daggers at each other?

A: We’ve been with the same coach, Marina (Zoueva), for about nine years now. Having someone there who’s going through such similar things as you are, who is dealing with the same stresses, it’s very beneficial — on top of having your top competitor there as motivational purposes. They’re so gifted. You look at them for a minute and say, “OK, I can’t take a day off.” It helped push both (teams) to first and second, for years at every major competition. It was a friendly rivalry.

‘Stars on Ice’

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: KeyArena at Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle

Tickets: $25-$145 at ticketmaster. com

Information: starsonice.com

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541
craig.sailor@thenewstribune.com

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