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Davis, White: 'Skating takes backseat to tragedy'

If their shot at history has to wait, so be it

Meryl Davis and Charlie White think the ISU made the right decision on postponing the 2011 World Championships.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White think the ISU made the right decision on postponing the 2011 World Championships. (Paul Harvath)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(03/14/2011) - Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White were looking forward to competing this month at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo to make history.

If Davis and White were to win the world title, they would become the first American ice dancers to reach the top of the world podium. Ice dancing has been part of the world championships since 1952.

But they realize their place in history takes a backseat to the tragedy of historical proportions that has been occurring in Japan. Tokyo had been the planned host of the world championships, which were set to begin March 21, but in the wake of the tsunami, earthquakes and nuclear plant problems, the International Skating Union this morning opted to postpone the championships and possibly cancel them.

The last time the world championships were canceled was 50 years ago when the entire U.S. world team, along with coaches, family members, officials and judges were killed in a plane crash en route to the championships in Prague.

"I definitely think this is the right decision for the ISU to either change the event to a different location or to cancel it altogether,'' Davis said. "It's easy for us to focus on our skating and training, but what's going on in Japan right now is just unfathomable.''

When the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan Friday, there was some hope among those in the skating world that worlds could still occur in Tokyo later in the month. The ISU released a statement saying the Yoyogi National Stadium appeared to be intact. But now, in the wake of aftershocks, nuclear plant problems, travel issues and thousands of deaths across the country, the thought of operating the world championships right now in Tokyo became unimaginable.

Tokyo had hosted worlds back in 2007, and Japan had been eager to hold the event there again, especially since Japan's Mao Asada and Daisuke Takahashi are the defending women's and men's world champions.

But that was all before the tsunami and earthquakes changed everything.

"You watch the footage and in comparison to what they're going through, figure skating, medals and all of that doesn't really mean all that much,'' Davis said.

Added White: "In the face of everything happening in Japan, it's not the toughest pill to swallow.''

Perhaps the hardest part now for the skaters is that they are in limbo, still training but with so many lingering questions: Will there be a worlds? Where will they be? When will they occur?

"We are kind of in the dark right now,'' Davis said.

And though Davis and White recognize the depths of the tragedy in Japan and have put that country's problems in perspective, it would be hard for them not to be disappointed if they couldn't make a run at history.

"It would be extremely disappointing,'' she said. "Charlie and I feel great right now and more prepared than ever. To not be able to fight for that spot on the top of the podium would be very disappointing.''

Davis and White have won every competition they have entered this season, beginning with their Grand Prix events, the Grand Prix Final, the U.S. Figure Skating Championships (marking their third U.S. title) and most recently, the Four Continents Championships (although their toughest competition, Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were forced to withdraw from the Four Continents event due to her Virtue's injury.) Davis and White were runners-up to Virtue and Moir at the 2010 World Championships.

"We've worked so hard to skate well [in worlds],'' White said. "But we've both been around the world a few times to know that there's so much more to life than our own expectations. We've accomplished a lot. I mean, 14 years, an Olympic silver medal and a world silver medal.''

Davis and White laughed when a reporter suggested that the world championships could be relocated to the Arctic Edge Arena in Canton, Mich., where Davis and White practice as do Virtue and Moir, U.S. silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and U.S. bronze medalists Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein. All of those teams qualified for the world championships.

"Well,'' White said, "We do have two rinks and we could probably fill them up.''

Davis and White both expressed an interest in being involved in some sort of skating-related benefit to help those in need in Japan, although nothing of the sort is in the works as of yet. In 2005, not long after another tsunami devastated southeast Asia, ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto organized a benefit show to help raise money to rebuild that area of the world. Their show raised about $40,000.

"The amount of support we get from Japan is really astounding,'' White said. "Maybe we could make something happen. Everyone could use a morale boost.''