OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Add another title to Meryl Davis and Charlie White's impressive collection.
Davis and White won their fifth straight ice dance crown at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday, matching a record held by four other couples. As the audience stood and cheered, Davis knelt close to the ice for several seconds, her head bowed.
The Olympic silver medalists and 2011 world champions had had such a big lead after the short dance they had to do little more but step on the ice to win. But they did so much more than that with their dramatic and powerful routine to "Notre Dame de Paris," setting personal bests for both overall score (197.44 points) and free dance (118.42).
They finished more than 20 points ahead — yes, you read that right — of Madison Chock and Evan Bates (175.91). Maia and Alex Shibutani were docked a point for an extended lift and finished third (174.21).
The only team in the world that can give Davis and White a real fight is Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who edged the Americans at both the Vancouver Olympics and 2010 and 2012 world championships. But that doesn't mean Davis and White take it easy when they come to nationals.
Far from it.
Their performance was spellbinding, so intense no one in the arena dared breathe. Every inch of the ice, every nuance of music was filled with intricate and elegant moves, one more difficult than the next. Their skating skills have always been superb, their edge quality so fine that coaches pop in DVDs of them to show their students.
But it is the way they combine the athletic strengths with the beauty and elegance of a dance that makes them so breathtaking. They are a sporting event and a theater show rolled into one. Their lifts can barely be described they were so intricate and innovative. In one, White twirled Davis like a rifle and whipped her from his front to back all while skating and turning at full speed.
They oozed emotion, using the tips of their eyelashes all the way down to the toes of their feet to express the character of the dance, and the audience was as exhausted as Davis and White when they finished.
Chock and Bates and the Shibutanis have the misfortune of trying to compete with that, and there was no way they could come close. At least, not now.
Chock and Bates' lifts are filled with unique positions, and they were done with great speed and control. But it was the love story they displayed to "Dr. Zhivago" that was so delightful. Close your eyes, and you could almost see the horses and the sleigh in the falling snow.
The Shibutanis' routine to "Memoirs of a Geisha" was seamless, the elements flowing from one to the other so perfectly it was impossible to tell where one ended and the next began. The siblings opened with a pairs spin that was better than anything seen during the actual pairs competition earlier in the afternoon, and it lasted for what seemed like forever — no easy feat to maintain that speed and momentum.
Their twizzles — traveling spins — are, simply, exquisite. They are done in perfect unison, right down to the raising of their arms while they spin. Their big flaw was that he held his sister too long on a lift, a mistake they also made in the short dance.