Davis, White lead despite twizzle trip

Canadians second and third; Shibutanis sit fourth

Not even a botched twizzle could keep Meryl Davis and Charlie White from the top spot.
Not even a botched twizzle could keep Meryl Davis and Charlie White from the top spot. (Michelle Harvath)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(11/13/2010) - It may be that nothing can stop Meryl Davis and Charlie White this season, not even a treacherous twizzle.

The world and Olympic silver medalists, who took gold at NHK Trophy earlier this season, gained a 3.21-point lead after the short dance, despite White's uncharacteristic stumble, which downgraded that element to a Level 2.

"I was trying to break light speed; physics got in the way," White said.

Two Canadian teams -- Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, who won Skate Canada earlier this season, and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who took silver at NHK -- are second and third, respectively. U.S. junior champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are fourth, some 3.02 out of medal position.

While White opened the team's program, set to a medley of La Traviata and La Boheme, with a mistake, the U.S. champions can take heart that their Golden Waltz sequences earned higher levels than they did at NHK. The first sequence gained Level 4, as did a speedy closing rotational lift.

The two-time U.S. champions notched 63.62 points, several points below their score at NHK.

"Charlie and I were really pleased with our short dance today; we actually think it's much improved since NHK," Davis said. "There were a couple of fluky things here and there, nothing serious. The twizzles were obvious; the [Level 2] on the midline steps, we're going to have to take a look at back home and figure out."

Like many top teams, Davis and White have been challenged to come to grips with the short dance, a hybrid of the compulsory dance [Golden Waltz] and original dance the ISU is debuting this season. Friday's operatic short dance was the second their coaches, Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband, prepared.

"Originally, we were going to skate to Amelie, and sort of made up a story line involving an invisible typewriter and all kinds of crazy things, but there wasn't time in the program to get that creative," White said.

"We learned that the hard way after working on it for a while. We decided to go the more classical route with music people are familiar with. It's a very simple storyline; we're sort of at a party. We didn't want to complicate things too much."

Crone and Poirier went a more modern route, skating their Waltz to one piece of music, Alicia Keys' "Fallin." Their clean skate notched 60.41 points.

"It wasn't perfect; there were a few rough spots, which we tried to cover up," Poirier said. "After winning Skate Canada, we tried to overcome any pressure we put on ourselves to prove that win wasn't a fluke. We put it in the back of our minds.

"There were a few levels that weren't as high [as at Skate Canada], so we'll definitely go home and look at that."

Weaver and Poje -- who narrowly lost the second and final Canadian ice dance spot at the Vancouver Olympics to Crone and Poirier last season -- performed an elegant program to a medley of Etta James' "At Last" and "Cheek to Cheek," earning 59.48 points.

"We got a Level 4 on the first sequence of the Golden Waltz, an improvement since NHK," Weaver said. "It's definitely a step in the right direction."

"We love old movies, we love that style of elegance, and that's the direction we wanted to go in," added Poje.

The skaters attribute much of their success this Grand Prix season to their coaches, Anjelica Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo, who train them at the Detroit Skating Club.

"They've transformed our skating," Weaver said. "I think our biggest strength is we're good students. [Our coaches] set goals, we do what we're told, and we achieve [those goals]. We're like sponges."

The Shibutani siblings also improved upon their short dance at NHK, where they won bronze. There, Alex tripped up on Maia's skirt during the Golden Waltz section; here, not only has the skirt been shortened, but Maia grasps her hem as she exits from her shoot-the-duck position.

"She holds it long enough to make sure I don't step on it," Alex said, adding, "We have nothing to lose this year. We worked hard all summer; we knew we were ready to make the jump [to seniors]. Getting third place at NHK was a big surprise. It's nice to see results."

Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, eighth in the U.S. last season, skated a solid program that included three Level 4 elements. They earned 52.13 and are sixth going in to the free dance.