Olympic ice dancers find their path paved with gold

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Meryl Davis and Charlie White's breakneck pace hasn't slackened since the Sochi Olympics. They made history in February, shattering the previous world records for free dance and short program to become the first Americans to win the gold medal in ice dancing.

Davis and White -- skating partners since 1997 -- have spent the past two months performing side-by-side on the "Stars on Ice" figure-skating tour and separately in ABC's hit dance competition "Dancing with the Stars."

It's been an "intense" and "exhausting" saga, White said by phone Saturday, but "we're in the best shape of our lives. We're also having the time of our lives. And we're not taking any of it for granted."

The only difficult part, White said, is the dance floor.

"The ice just feels like home, especially now after I'm realizing how much I take for granted," he said. "The dance floor is a totally different kind of monster. You think you know how to walk, but you actually have no idea how to walk like these guys."

"Stars on Ice" will come to Consol Energy Center Friday. Joining Davis and White on tour is the entire bronze medal-winning U.S. figure-skating team. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show, are on sale at www.starsonice.com and www.ticketmaster.com.

Add Davis and White's silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the duo has hit for the Olympic medal cycle. The publicity explosion after winning the gold, though, has made it a whole different ballgame. The invite to "Dancing with the Stars," for example, came the day after the pair captured the gold medal.

"It's a night-and-day difference, honestly," White said. "After we won the gold medal, it was like every single person on the streets of New York City recognized us. That's a very strange thing." He laughed and added, "That's the opposite of how we had been before."

True to form, too, White paused midanswer for a quick "Thank you!" to a congratulatory fan who recognized him on the sidewalk in Los Angeles as he walked to dance rehearsal.

Monday, on the Week 6 airing of "Dancing With the Stars," Davis and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy tangoed to a perfect score of 40; White and Sharna Burgess's cha-cha finished four points back and in third place.

"People like to bring up the fact that we're competing against each other and ask if that feels weird, but it doesn't," White said. "It feels like we're in it together.

"Obviously, after 17 years of skating together, on top of the fact that we just won an Olympic gold medal, we know exactly what the other person is going through. It's just nice to have someone that's there to support you and have fun with you and be tired with you."

Davis and White, Royal Oak, Mich., natives, are no strangers to Pittsburgh, either. They took first place at the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in 1999 and toured with "Stars on Ice" in 2010. White recalled playing in hockey tournaments in Pittsburgh back in his youth hockey days.

"We're very familiar with the area," White said. "It's great for skating and always has great audiences, so we're looking forward to getting back there."

The ice-dancing champions will catch their breath in June, once the shows end. Then they will discuss the future. "What's next?" is a daunting question for Davis and White, who, at 27 and 26, already have reached the pinnacle of their sport.

"I haven't even crossed that bridge yet, honestly," White said. "It's definitely in the back of mind. Meryl and I ... spent our entire lives planning what was going to come next in preparation to win the gold medal. Obviously, with our crazy, hectic schedule right now, we can't even look two days ahead of ourselves without going crazy."

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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