This is an American Olympic story, one we’ve been waiting on for years. At long last, U.S. ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, have touched our hearts and captivated our souls at the Winter Olympics. Our nation likely was amazed and delighted with Davis and White, who have been partners for 17 years and, with timing, footwork, artistry and craft, the dancers finally captured a gold medal in ice dancing.
The romantic dance, now symbols of pride and charm, was refreshing and dazzling enough that Davis and White popularized this showy, artistic sport. They’ll never be forgotten, nor will this Olympic moment. They’ll always be remembered around the nation for becoming the first U.S. ice-dance team to win the gold medal in which the Americans had flawlessly performed their flashy routine much better than Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Four years later, after Davis and White fell short of taking the gold medal, this was redemption for the Americans.
To nobody’s surprise, due to the fact that Davis and White failed in the 2010 Vancouver Games, the Americans out-skated and out-danced the Canadians and wrote a chapter in the U.S. Olympic history book. Its stories like this that captures the imagination of millions and makes us believe in the improbable as moments like these are inescapable in the Olympics. It’s a beautiful finish for such a wonderful ice dancing pair, whose glittering careers have been altered by one spectacular performance. You’ve seen Davis and White, as great as they were, win the silver four years ago, while Virtue and Moir took gold.
This time around, it was a whole different narrative. This U.S. ice dancing duo, dancing smoothly and brilliantly, fighting hard for Olympic gold, is the best thing going for the United States. This could go down, no doubt, as one of the greatest U.S. competitions all time. Entering these games, the U.S. was projected to win as many as 35 medals in Sochi, Russia, but as of now, the Americans aren’t on pace to make it happen. The U.S. sent 230 athletes to the Olympics, the largest delegation by any nation ever at the Winter Games. For Americans, though, Sochi has been a catastrophe, mainly because of the ramshackle hotel rooms, murky water, locked doors and bad plumbing. For Americans, these Games have been a major disappointment, and the U.S. showing hasn’t exactly been flawless.
It’s overstating the case to call the U.S. speed skating team the most complete winter sport in the United States, led by Shani Davis, who was a favorite to reign supreme in the 1,000 meters and become the first male speedskater to win three consecutive gold medals in the same event. Forget, for a moment, about the Olympic debacles, or that our athletes haven’t fulfilled expectations. Forget, for a moment, that J.R. Celski sliced his leg open in a severe injury and returned for a chance to win a medal in Sochi. Forget, for a moment, that U.S. speedskaters have won zero medals in long track. If the Americans don’t win a medal, it will be their worst performance in 30 years. The world’s famous snowboarder, Shaun White, didn’t even win a medal, losing to Iouri Podladtchikov, the Russian dude they call iPod.
Skeleton racer, John Daly, who is not polarizing like the insane golfer, went to Russia hoping to finally snatch gold, but was devoid of a medal and distraught over a heartbreaker suffered in the competition when his sled slid off the track at the start of his final run. While that was disappointing, luger Kate Hansen finished 10th place, and she was proud of her run, fascinating us with her dance ritual before every race. At age 30, Kelly Clark, favored to win the woman’s halfpipe, fell on her first run, after hitting the deck while attempting a 1080. Her quest for gold was over, losing to her countrywoman Kaitlyn Farrington and settling for bronze.
There was nothing historic in these Olympics for Kikkan Randall, the cross-country skier who was expected to capture a gold medal. Hannah Kearney, meanwhile, was primed to become the free skier to win two straight golds, but on that day, she was a winner and a bit more thankful to earn bronze. It should come as no surprise that ski-jumping world champ Sarah Hendrickson finished 21st, still recovering from right-knee surgery. Perhaps Apolo Anton Ohno, the most decorated of all U.S. Winter Olympians, felt it was time to end his colorful career and hang up the skates, which he did, and he has been a huge loss for the team. There’s nothing skier Lindsey Vonn can do to change the status of these games, missing out on the fun with an injured right knee that she suffered after a catastrophic crash a year ago.
As always, Jeremy Abbott, the 28-year-old figure skater, fell apart in Olympic championships and didn’t manage the pressure in these competitions. Without Vonn, the alpine ski team, unexpectedly, has grossly fallen by the wayside. Skier Bode Miller fared poorly in the men’s downhill, finishing 8th in the event, and then blamed his failures on not having eye surgery before the Olympics. He managed to win bronze in the super-G, then he emotionally broke down in tears when NBC reporter Christin Cooper during a post-race interview pestered him about his brother, Chilly, who died last year from a seizure. Much was expected from American skier, Julia Mancuso, but she only earned bronze as well. It would be nice if Ted Ligety can prove he’s as innovative as advertised with a victory Wednesday in the giant slalom.
Since U.S. Olympians have been nothing short of a disappointment, given their failures to medal in these games, Meryl and Charlie emerged in time to soothe the wounds of misfortune. They have been the true American heroes whose theatrics expunged the disappointment, and on this night, Davis and White, if not flawlessly remarkable, changed the way America views ice dancing. It’s abundantly clear that America doesn’t have a knack for winter sports as much as it does in summer competitions, such as swimming and basketball, events the Americans dominate so well.
With that in mind, the U.S. did win a team-record 37 medals in Vancouver four years ago, but at this rate, it doesn’t seem as if the Americans can duplicate such a feat in Russia, with 17 medals and five golds so far. But now, we can enjoy this historic title to make ice dancing relevant in the United States.
If nothing else monumental happens in Sochi, at least we can forever recall a breakthrough for two Americans who stand as symbols of U.S. ice dancing. It was such a surreal moment for a pair of U.S. athletes who put a smile on our face.