Meryl Davis, Charlie White look to uncertain future in ice dancing

Meryl Davis, Charlie White
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NEW YORK — Meryl Davis and Charlie White recently performed at a figure skating show in Japan. An International Skating Union official they’ve known for years approached them.

“You’re bringing so much more to the ice now after ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” the official said. “You have to come back.”

Davis and White have not skated competitively since winning the first U.S. Olympic ice dance gold medal in Sochi on Feb. 17.

“I think we both felt it soon after we were done competing at the Olympics,” White said at the chilly opening of The Rink at Rockefeller Center on Monday morning. “We were both planning on competing at the World Championships [in March in Saitama, Japan], but as soon as we were done, that was everything we had. That was the perfect way to end the season.”

They pulled out of the World Championships one week after the Olympic Closing Ceremony. A day later, it was announced they would go on “Dancing with the Stars,” where White finished fourth and Davis won.

Then, on June 6, the kids who grew up 10 minutes apart and had skated together for some 17 years announced they wouldn’t compete at all the upcoming season. Maybe never again.

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“There was the flurry of media and we did all the stuff,” White said Monday. “As it went on, we were so tired and exhausted. It was really easy for us to just be like, it wouldn’t make any sense for us to compete next year. We really need to just regroup and figure out if that’s moving toward what we even want to do.”

White is training his new puppy, Finnegan — “Finn” — and helping set up his wedding with 2006 Olympic ice dance silver medalist Tanith Belbin. Davis is back in school, taking University of Michigan online classes.

Davis and White will skate together in shows this fall and grand marshal a Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade. They won’t discuss a possible competitive future until the spring.

White conceded taking a break and returning to ice dance would be easier than, say, singles skating.

“That’s not to say it would be easy,” White said. “If you want to be a top man [singles skater], you really need to be able to do a quad. To lose the timing of a quad jump is to lose all hope [laughs]. For us, there are a lot of moves that are important and require daily training. It’s not quite to the nth degree. The areas in ice dance that you can actually improve not by competing but by experiencing other things are palpable and would show up in the scores.”

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Davis and White said they would never skate with different partners (unlike two-time Olympic teammate Evan Bates, who competed in Vancouver with Emily Samuelson and Sochi with Madison Chock.)

“Definitely not,” Davis said. “Not a chance. … I can’t even fathom.”

“That would never go well,” White said. “Everything that makes us good skaters is entirely reliant on the other person. We’re symbiotic.”

Davis and White have thought about how long they will be dancing on ice in non-competitive shows together. British 1984 Olympic ice dance champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were still touring last spring.

“I think there’s probably a point of no return,” White said, laughing. “Once our bodies aren’t able to do the things that we’re used to being able to do, I think it would be so disappointing, I wouldn’t necessarily want to try.”

Davis was more succinct.

“If your question is, will we be performing at 40, the answer is no,” said Davis, who is 27 (White is 26).

Davis and White said they’ve met Dean but haven’t discussed the facets of gold medal-worthy ice dancing.

“They’re such icons in England, I feel like there would be a revolt if they stopped skating,” White said. “They’re such legends. They’re untouchable. You don’t, like, text Christopher Dean, ‘Hey what’d you think of my performance?'”

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U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

Thomas Bach
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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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