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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