Meryl Davis, Charlie White will not defend Olympic ice dance title

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NEW YORK — Meryl Davis and Charlie White will not compete next season, meaning they won’t defend their Olympic ice dance title in PyeongChang.

“It’s still really weird to say that out loud,” White said, adding that they’re not retiring. “I’m not really sure what tone to use. It’s not like we’re celebrating it. It’s a little bit disappointing, but at the same time, it’s nice to finally come to a decision.”

Davis and White, who both turn 30 years old this year, haven’t competed since Sochi while still skating in shows and exploring other opportunities, many of them products of becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance gold medalists.

The decision not to defend their Olympic title was nearly three years in the making for a couple that started skating together at ages 9 and 10 in 1997 in Michigan. From 2009 on, they captured six straight national titles, two world titles and an Olympic medal of every color.

“Since Sochi, we’ve been giving it a lot of thought, a lot of time,” Davis said, sitting to White’s right on the mezzanine level of a Midtown Manhattan hotel. “It always felt like the right direction to be moving in.”

In June 2014, Davis and White announced they would sit out the 2014-15 season. In March 2015, they said they would extend the break through the 2015-16 season. Then last October, they said they wouldn’t skate in the 2016-17 season.

Davis and White trained together in Michigan and skated together in shows around the world the last three years. They will continue to do so at least through the spring on a Stars on Ice tour.

“People ask me now at competitions, do you wish you were out there?” Davis said. “After giving it a lot of thought, I always say, no, I feel really good about the capacity I’m here in right now. I think that was really telling for me.”

White agreed. He pointed to the freedom of not feeling forced to make a decision.

“Recognizing what it takes to be at the top of your game, and having done that for so long, the stresses and the pressures and the expectations,” he said, “countering that with continued growth in new and fun and exciting areas.”

Davis and White took up commentating, most recently at the U.S. Championships last month. White choreographed a program for one couple at nationals.

“We’re not missing out on so many of the wonderful things that ice dancing has to offer [by not competing], pretty much besides the grueling training and competition,” White said.

Both could also finish their undergraduate degrees at the University of Michigan.

And White wants to devote more time to his marriage with 2006 Olympic silver medalist ice dancer Tanith White, a broadcaster for NBC Sports.

For now, the final image of Davis and White skating off competition ice was as the first American ice dance gold medalists in Sochi. More U.S. couples could replicate that success, but Davis and White will always be atop the list.

“The mantle of being the first, we proudly wear,” White said. “I don’t want to take away from it, but we did it on the back of everyone else. It was a group project.”

Davis and White have closely followed the ice dance scene in their break. They witnessed the rise of French couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, a comeback by Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir that White called “inspiring” and U.S. couples earn the last two world silver medals.

Last year, Virtue and Moir ribbed Davis and White, their former training partners, while on tour about possibly joining them in coming back.

“I think we would have fit in [the competitive landscape],” White said. “It’s not a question. It didn’t enter into our thought process. Not because we’re so supremely confident in our talent, but because if we were to come back, we know that we would have done so with the intention of giving it 110 percent, as we always did. For us, we know that if we can be as prepared as possible, then we’ll always have a shot do well.”

Even if they never compete again, Davis and White plan to stay very involved in figure skating, hoping to be at next year’s national championships and the PyeongChang Olympics in non-competitive capacities.

“We’re still absolutely in love with our sport,” Davis said. “We don’t take the opportunity lightly to be able to do what we love for a living.”

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Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium; contenders crash out

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle qualifying is underway with Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, taking the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98 percent,” Goepper said. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes among five selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest also missed the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin, then 15, was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi as the youngest American in any sport but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying resumes in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo., and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Slopestyle 
(women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150*
2. Devin Logan — 82
3. Darian Stevens — 81
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29

**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Maame Biney, J.R. Celski join U.S. Olympic short track team

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Maame Biney will become the second African-born athlete to compete for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics and the first black woman on a speed skating team.

J.R. Celski, a three-time medalist, is going to a third Winter Games.

Biney, Celski and Aaron Tran qualified in short track at the Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, after the 500m on Saturday.

The team is now at five skaters — John-Henry Krueger and Lana Gehring qualified on the first night Friday.

Three more skaters will qualify Sunday after 1000m races — two men and one woman.

One of Katherine Reutter-Adamek and Jessica Kooreman, the top U.S. women at the last two Olympics, is guaranteed to miss the PyeongChang team.

Neither could keep up with the 17-year-old Biney, who moved to the D.C. area from Ghana with her father at age 5, on Saturday.

Biney swept the 500m finals, taking leads from the start and holding off more experienced women. She actually fell — while celebrating after crossing the finish line in the last race.

Afterward, NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce told Biney that eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno believes Biney doesn’t know how good she is.

“People have been telling me that forever, and I think right now I’m kind of seeing it, but I feel like I have a long ways to go, but thanks Apolo,” said Biney, who won a junior world championships bronze medal last season.

Celski did not win the men’s 500m, where he is the world-record holder. Krueger did, with Tran in second.

But the fact that Krueger finished in the top two in Friday’s 1500m and the 500m means that Celski gets on the team via his second-place finish in the 1500m.

Celski won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics and another relay silver in Sochi.

He took a full season off after Sochi — undergoing hip surgery — and overcame further knee and back injuries the last two years to return to the World Cup podium this season.

Celski is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal this season (a bronze) in 24 total races.

Celski won’t be able to race the 500m in PyeongChang if Thomas Hong makes the Olympic team on Sunday.

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U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Friday 6:45-8 p.m. 1500m rounds STREAM LINK
8:30-10 p.m. 1500m finals NBCSN | STREAM LINK
Saturday 12-1:45 p.m. 500m rounds STREAM LINK
2:30-4 p.m. 500m finals NBC | STREAM LINK
Sunday 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 1000m rounds STREAM LINK
1-3 p.m. 1000m finals NBC | STREAM LINK