Meryl Davis, Charlie White class of ice dance field at U.S. Championships

Meryl Davis, Charlie White
0 Comments

Meryl Davis and Charlie White have a little history to take care of before they go for the first Olympic gold medal by an American ice dance couple in Sochi.

The reigning Olympic silver medalists are heavy favorites to win a record sixth U.S. Championship in ice dance, breaking a tie with four past couples.

Davis and White begin their fifth straight U.S. title defense on Friday at Boston’s TD Garden, hope to wrap up No. 6 on Saturday and be named to their second Olympic Team on Sunday.

They’re the closest to a sure thing across all four disciplines this weekend and might be the only American figure skaters to win a medal in Sochi.

Part of that is due to a lull across U.S. men’s, women’s and pairs skating, but more for their remarkable podium consistency since taking the baton from 2006 Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.

Davis and White are the reigning world champions, have won five straight Grand Prix Finals and haven’t finished off the podium anywhere in nearly five years.

“We have been very fortunate to have an amazing career as American ice dancers,” the curly blond White said.

U.S. Figure Skating Championships Previews: Men | Women | Ice DancePairs | Schedule

It started in earnest at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Davis and White won their first national title in 2009, but that was without the sidelined Belbin and Agosto, who became the first U.S. ice dancers to win an Olympic medal in 2006.

Davis and White outscored Belbin and Agosto in the short dance, original dance (since dropped from ice dancing competitions) and the free dance in Spokane, Wash., in 2010.

They then beat Belbin and Agosto again at the Olympics, silver to fourth, firmly planting themselves as the No. 1 U.S. ice dancers.

They enter Boston as the couple to beat and could win even with flaws, but neither likes those perspectives.

“I think Charlie and I always feel like the hunters,” Davis said. “Four years ago we were really seeking to be the top U.S. team going into the Games. We had a lot we wanted to accomplish. This time we’re really aiming to go after the perfect performances.”

It might take perfection to win Olympic gold over Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, their training partners in Canton, Mich. Virtue and Moir are known for their lyricism; Davis and White their athleticism.

The Americans brought in five-time “Dancing With the Stars” champion Derek Hough and a Persian dancer to boost their programs this season. They’ve been skating together for 18 years but are still learning, still improving.

Which doesn’t bode well for any other couples’ chances of taking gold in Boston.

“We’ve left no stone unturned,” White said.

The competition for the other two Olympic spots is led by Alex and Maia Shibutani, the “ShibSibs,” whose parents attended Harvard and mother was born in Japan. They’ve been skating together for 10 years, but this is their first chance to make an Olympic Team.

The Shibutanis have trained with Davis and White for six years.

“Ugh, those guys,” Alex joked of Davis and White. “When we were juniors in 2010, you’d have to ask them, but I felt very much like we were not yet ready to be a part of their group. After Grand Prix Finals, traveling with them, being to so many World Championships, they’ve really accepted us.”

Alex, who at 22 is three years older than Maia, was born in Boston and is excited to skate in the arena that the Celtics and Bruins call home.

“If you see him getting emotional when he’s looking up into the rafters,” Maia said, “you’ll know why.”

“I’m kind of a Mass-hole of sorts when it comes to the sports teams,” Alex said.

They are known for their humor and social media sense but also for their energy on the ice. The Shibutanis skate to Michael Buble in the short dance and a Michael Jackson medley in the free dance and have worked with Corky Ballas on choreography. Ballas, a Latin ballroom dancing champion, has trained “Dancing With the Stars” professionals such as Hough.

The Shibutanis won bronze at the 2011 World Championships, finished second, second and third at the last three U.S. Championships and won bronze medals at both of their Grand Prix events this season.

They’re the clear-cut No. 2 couple. Behind them are Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue

Bates took 11th at the 2010 Olympics with Emily Samuelson and teamed with Chock two years ago. They beat the Shibutanis at the 2013 U.S. Championships but did not make the podium in two Grand Prix events this season.

Hubbell and Donohue were fourth at the U.S. Championships and posted comparable scores to Chock and Bates in the Grand Prix season. They could be vying for that third and final spot.

Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
Getty
0 Comments

Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Ironman Kona World Championships return, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
0 Comments

The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona men’s pro race, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Both entered Kailua-Kona, where the races were now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men. Chelsea Sodaro won the women’s race, ending a 20-year American victory drought.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!