LONDON, Ontario — Oh, is the Olympic year going to be fun.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their second world title on Saturday afternoon, adding even more spice to a rivalry with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir that is already the best thing going in figure skating.
Not only did the five-time U.S. champions complete a perfect season, which included victories over the Canadians at the Grand Prix Final and Four Continents, they beat the Olympic champions in their hometown, where Virtue and Moir are, as the public address announcer said, “local skating icons.”
“It’s certainly special for us to be a part of, being able to go back and forth like we have since the last Olympics,” White said. “Without them, I definitely wouldn’t be to the point I’m at. Having such talented rivals as them at the rink every day and seeing how great they are has pushed us, and I’d like to think in return we’ve pushed them back.
“It’s a lot of fun, and a great story line for next year.”
And don’t think this won’t motivate Virtue and Moir, the reigning Olympic champions.
With 189.56 points, Davis and White beat Virtue and Moir by 4½ points. That score also was a point higher than the world record the Americans had set at last season’s Grand Prix Final.
“This rivalry between the two of us seems to have heated up now,” Moir said. “It should be fun going into the Olympics.”
It is the second world title in three seasons for Davis and White, whose victory in 2011 was the first by an American dance team.
“We try to celebrate these moments because we know there aren’t an infinite amount of them,” White said.
European champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia won the bronze medal.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates were seventh in their worlds debut while Maia and Alex Shibutani were eighth. The United States will be able to send three dance teams to Sochi, the third straight Olympics the Americans have qualified the maximum spots.
The women’s free skate is later Saturday.
Davis-White and Virtue-Moir have been trading titles since the Vancouver Olympics, where the Americans were runners-up. Either couple would dominate the sport if the other wasn’t around.
But the fact they are has made both better, as anyone watching Saturday’s free skate could see.
Unlike many couples, who trick up their programs with stunts and funky music and costumes, Davis and White let their dancing speak for them. Every second of their program was simply magnificent, so breathtaking you didn’t dare blink for fear of missing something.
Pairs skaters ought to take note of their first spin, which was far better than anything done in the pairs competition.
It’s a wonder Davis was able to stand up after their first lift. White flipped her up and around his back like a baton until she was in his arms, whirling feverishly the entire time.
And anyone who wants to learn how to skate should simply watch their programs. Their edge quality is better than that of any master craftsman, and there wasn’t a spot on the rink that they didn’t visit at least once during their program.
Most impressive? While most couples can only skate in one direction, Davis and White turn, travel and venture off in all kinds of different directions and patterns. Think walking and texting at the same time, and you get the idea.
When they finished, White knelt on the ice for several minutes, spent. But he had recovered by the time their marks were posted, jumping up to wave to the cheering fans.
“This has to be close to the top,” White said. “Obviously, the first time we won worlds, being the first-ever American world championship, that has a special place. But our growth this season and how far we’ve come to win this gold medal, that’s what makes this one really special.”
Virtue and Moir grew up just outside of London, and the entire city seems to be on a first-name basis with them. The arena was filled with hundreds of their family and friends — easily identifiable by their canary-yellow T-shirts — and Canada’s governor general was on hand to watch them.
No pressure there or anything.
“To have those people in the venue with us, it was special,” Moir said. “Obviously there was a little bit of added pressure today. … We wanted to go out and have a moment, like Charlie talked about. We all chase that.”
Errors in their short dance left them trailing by 3.25 points, a sizeable gap by ice dance standards. But they weren’t going to give up their title without a fight, especially not in front of all their fans.
Their “Carmen” was steamy and colorful, so much so you could practically see the blood pouring from her by the end of the program. They were always in time with the music and, as it grew, so did their movements.
The last 40 seconds of their program was downright frenetic, highlighted by their final lift sequence. Gymnasts would have been impressed with the backflip she did into his arms before he boosted her onto his shoulders and then spun her around.
Without even a second to catch their breaths, they immediately went into another lift, where she appeared to die in his arms.
“These are performances to build off of,” Moir said. “We’re looking forward to a big year next year and coming out on top.”
To be continued.