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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VIDEO: Nathan Chen declares Olympic aspirations in 2010

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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