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

Meryl Davis, Charlie White
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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.

Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden
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Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

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Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth

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Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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