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Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, an ice dance preview

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SOCHI, Russia – American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White already have Olympic bronze (from this year’s team event) and silver (from the 2010 Vancouver Games) medals, and Sunday they set out for the missing – golden – piece at the Sochi Games.

But standing in their way are 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Canadians who share a coach and train alongside Davis/White, making their Olympic showdown one of the most anticipated match-ups of these Games.

RELATED: Davis/White vs. Virtue/Moir rivalry breakdown

After splitting the first two World Championships crowns following the Vancouver Games, Davis/White have seemed to inch ahead of Virtue/Moir, not losing in nearly two years, coming in as reigning world champions and easily taking the ice dance portion of the team event last week.

While the battle for the gold medal promises to be fierce and dramatic, so too will the ensuing fight for the bronze in the ice dance event inside Iceberg Skating Palace, which gets underway on Sunday and concludes Monday night.

Rivalry Renewed
After not competing against one another for nearly a year, Davis/White and Virtue/Moir have battled twice in the last 10 weeks, though the outcomes have been vastly different score-wise. At the Grand Prix Final in December, the Americans barely edged out their foes, setting a world record en route to their record 16th Grand Prix gold medal.

But last week in the new Olympic team event, Davis/White won going away thanks to errors in both the short and free dances from Virtue/Moir, winning by a margin of 10 points.

“We were very proud of the way that we skated in the team event,” White told reporters at a press conference Thursday. “The perfectionists that we are, we’re looking forward to putting out performances that can top what we did in the team event.”

Davis/White have often been called America’s “most assured gold” of these Games, though the skaters disagree with that.

“The great thing about ice dancing right now is that it’s a true sport,” White said. “It’s very competitive; there is a lot of great talent that can rise to the top. You have to skate great if you want to go out and win, and that goes for every team. All we can do is worry about going out and skating our best. There’s no shoo-in.”

The American duo – as well as the Canadians – has skated together since they were kids. Davis/White say they have no issue with being the favorites.

“We’ve worked hard to earn that right,” said Davis, who is a year older than White at 27. “We’ve worked hard to be in the place that we are in now. We wouldn’t have put in all that work to get there if it wasn’t where we wanted to be. We feel like we’re in a great spot.”

American Prospects
The American ice dance team as a whole is in a great spot after years of not being part of the international conversation. Madison Chock and Evan Bates said they were inspired by compatriots Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto’s silver medal at the 2006 Games. Only a duo since 2011, Chock/Bates were seventh at the World Championships last year and have two U.S. silvers behind Davis/White at Nationals.

Siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani round out the American ice dance effort, having won bronze at the World Championships in 2011. The Shibutanis skate to a Michael Jackson medley for their free dance, a program that has been a crowd favorite this season.

The Battle for Bronze
While Davis/White and Virtue/Moir are expected to fight it out for the top of the podium just as they did in Vancouver, the battle for bronze should be equally as fierce, led by two teams that have won World Championships third-place finishes over the last two years.

Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev are four-time reigning national champions and skated to third place in the team short dance segment, ahead of French veterans Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, a team that has two European Championships to its name – in 2011 and 2012 – as well as the 2012 World Championships bronze.

Also to watch? Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, the Italians who won their first European Championships gold last month in Budapest. Virtue/Moir’s teammates Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were fifth at the World Championships a year ago, but are getting on the ice for the first time in Sochi Sunday night. A second Russian team, Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, could factor in, as well, having skated to a third-place finish in the free dance of the team event.

The Russians will have home-ice advantage and an eager crowd after it was silenced during the men’s singles event when sole Russian entrant Yevgeny Plushenko pulled out with an injury prior to its start.

Bobrova/Soloviyev and Ilinykh/Katsalopv both have the experience of skating on the Iceberg ice in the team event and – as we saw in the team and pairs event – the crowd can certainly play a role in buoying the Russian skaters.

Closing Thoughts

Do Davis/White expect to win gold after their two years of unrivaled success?

“It’s not something we really think about,” White said. “If that moment comes then maybe we can enjoy it. Right now we want to put out a memorable performance. That’s what we’ve been preparing for our whole season in practice. We’re not preparing to win a gold medal, but instead to do something on the ice that we’re proud of and can remember forever.”

Two more fencers qualify for U.S. Olympic team

Alexander Massialas
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Nowhere is the U.S. more deep in fencing than in men’s foil, with four of the top 10 in the world.

Two of those four qualified for the Rio Olympics based on rankings updated after a competition last weekend — world No. 1 Alexander Massialas and No. 6 Gerek Meinhardt.

Expect No. 5 Race Imboden and No. 10 Miles Chamley-Watson to join them on the Rio team, qualifying by mid-April. That quartet also made up the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s foil team.

They are the 19th and 20th members of the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. View the complete roster here.

Imboden and Chamley-Watson are now battling to see who will be the third individual U.S. men’s foil fencer in Rio, with the fourth going to the Games as a possible competitor in the team event only.

Though Imboden is ranked higher internationally, it’s Chamley-Watson who controls his own destiny as he is better-placed in U.S. Fencing rankings that determine the Rio roster.

Since 2014, Massialas, Meinhardt and Imboden have all been ranked No. 1 in the world at one time or another. Chamley-Watson is a former world No. 2 and the only U.S. man to earn a World or Olympic title (2013 Worlds) in any fencing event.

Massialas took silver and Meinhardt bronze at the 2015 World Championships. Imboden reached the round of 16. Chamley-Watson lost in the first round to German Peter Joppich, a four-time World champion.

At the London Olympics, Massialas and Imboden were eliminated in the round of 16 and Chamley-Watson in the round of 32.

Meinhardt, who competed at Beijing 2008 as the youngest U.S. Olympic fencer ever, joined them in the team event, where the U.S. fell in the semifinals and the bronze-medal matchup. All were age 22 and younger at the London Games.

With four of the top 10 in the world, the U.S. could go into Rio as the favorite in the team event, though it fell in the 2015 Worlds quarterfinals to eventual champion Italy.

U.S. women’s sabre fencers Mariel Zagunis and Ibtihaj Muhammad qualified for the Olympics the previous weekend.

VIDEO: Chamley-Watson takes fencing to New York City streets

Paris 2024 Olympic bid logo unveiled on Arc de Triomphe

Paris 2024
Paris 2024
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The Paris 2024 Olympic bid logo was unveiled at the Arc de Triomphe at 20:24 (8:24 p.m.) on Tuesday.

The logo is a representation of the number 24 and a modern interpretation of the Eiffel Tower.

Paris, seeking to host the Olympics on the 100-year anniversary of its second time holding the Games, is bidding against Budapest, Los Angeles and Rome.

Paris hopes to become the second city to host the Olympics three times, joining London.

International Olympic Committee members will vote to choose the 2024 Olympic host city in September 2017.

MORE: 2024 Olympic bidding coverage

 

Paris 2024