A few moments after U.S. Olympic ice dance champions Charlie White and Meryl Davis took a seat together at Seattle’s Citizen Coffee, White let out a long yawn.
They were jet lagged, he explained. Two days earlier they had been in Shanghai, China, to perform in the world championships’ opening ceremony, and they’re currently halfway through a national tour of “Stars on Ice.”
On this day, they’re in town for a “Stars on Ice” promotional appearance. They’re skating in the show, founded in 1986 by skater Scott Hamilton, which comes to KeyArena on Friday (April 10).
“Luckily we love what we do,” Davis said of their busy schedule.
Davis and White recently announced they will not compete in the 2015-16 season.
“We’re enjoying what we’re doing, and we don’t have the fire inside of us to get out there and practice to get the level we would want to be at,” White said.
“We’re still skating all the time, just in a different way,” Davis added.
The season following their gold medal win at the Sochi Games, the pair skated in their second “Stars on Ice,” competed in the ABC TV show “Dancing with the Stars” (which Davis won), and generally enjoyed the fruits of their labors — which began in 1997.
Their partnership of 18 years makes them the longest-running ice dancing pair 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 neck strain.
The pair haven’t competed since Sochi. Future seasons, including the 2018 Pyeongchang (South Korea) Olympics, have yet to be decided.
“It’s one season at a time. If you’re not starting in the fall, then you’re not skating during the whole season. We’ve made that decision for this year,” Davis said.
For now, the pair are satisfied with just providing entertainment for “Stars on Ice” audiences.
“It pulls all the best talent from the United States and Canada,” White said of the show. “We both feel that Patrick Chan is one of the best skaters of all time.” Chan, one of the “Stars on Ice” performers, is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion.
White and Davis say the show is as good as skating gets, combing the best of athleticism and artistry.
“As we’re doing it you get chills,” White said.
“A couple of times, I’ve felt the hair on my arms standing up,” Davis said.
White said the audiences that turn out for shows like “Stars on Ice” overlap with those who watch competitions.
“The people who respect what we’re able to do on the ice (are drawn) to the show and the fact that we’re able to give them something different just adds an incredible bonus,” White said.
As if the travel and skating and promotional work isn’t enough, White is getting married later this month. But not, to the disappointment of some fans, to Davis.
White is engaged to Tanith Belbin, who won the silver medal in 2006 with her partner and one-time Lacey resident Ben Agosto. Belbin and Agosto will also be skating in Seattle.
“It’s nice to have this traveling job but be with her,” White said.
Davis declined the opportunity to confirm or deny any romantic links.
“I’m not dating Charlie so that’s the main point,” Davis said with a laugh.
In Shanghai last month, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron became the youngest world champions in 40 years.
“They’re very talented. Their free dance was a very special program. Charlie and I recognized right out of the gate in the fall that it was a standout program,” Davis said. Watching the competition didn’t make them yearn to get back in the game, White and Davis said. They are still enjoying their hiatus.
Davis said the period following the Olympics and going into “Dancing with the Stars” was a whirlwind. “We pretty much dove right in,” she said.
The TV show gave them as much notoriety as the Olympics did.
“We just accomplished our dreams and then people were coming up to us wanting to talk about ‘Dancing with the Stars’,” White said, still a little incredulous.
Davis and White agreed their partnership is similar to siblings, but they don’t categorize it.
“We spend a lot of time together, and we have since we were eight and nine,” Davis said. “We figured out a groove early on.”
“Usually we’re just on the same page,” White concurred. “If we’re not, it’s easy to talk. We never feel pressure.”
Davis said they have the same core values, and were raised in similar ways and want the same things out of figure skating. “We were just lucky to find the right on-ice partner right out of the gate,” she said.
Davis and White want to inspire young skaters with what they’ve learned in their long partnership. They were not pegged as future champions when they began, Davis said.
“Raw talent and making it happen are not necessarily one in the same,” Davis said. “We didn’t say ‘We want to be Olympic champions some day.’ We took everything step by step.”
“Making sacrifices at a young age was worth it to do something we loved,” White added. “What figure skating and sports can offer is the ability to recognize how hard you push yourself naturally and how much you need to push yourself further in order to succeed. A lot of times you run into a wall and it would be very easy to quit. You have to push past that.”