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Davis, White waltz away with dance crown

World champions fly to Die Fledermaus; French struggle through illness

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White earned their second consecutive victory at 2011 Skate America.
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White earned their second consecutive victory at 2011 Skate America. (FSC-SportIms)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/22/2011) - For four minutes on Saturday, Meryl Davis and Charlie White transformed the ice surface of Citizens Business Bank Arena into a grand Viennese ballroom with their sparkling free dance to Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus.

The U.S. ice dance world champions delighted the crowd and overwhelmed their competition, winning their second consecutive Skate America by an eye-popping 21.78 points.

"The skate for us was very good, definitely the best we've done the program to date, which is always nice in competition," White, 23, said.

"I think in terms of the character and just how we wanted to present ourselves, we're very, very pleased, and we're looking forward to working on it more."

European champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France fought through Bourzat's severe bronchitis to win silver. In a surprise, late entrants Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania, fifth after the short dance, edged out several other teams for the bronze.

Arriving at Die Fledermaus required an about-face from the three-time U.S. champions. At U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp in Colorado Springs in late August, feedback from judges and officials persuaded them to scrap their previously planned free dance, set to Nina Rota's La Strada soundtrack.

Ice dance fans are indebted to the nameless officials, since their critique gave the skating world Die Fledermaus, a light and intricate routine that bubbled across the ice at breakneck speed.

Davis and White already seemed in midseason form despite only having the program a few weeks. The elements, including two speedy rotational lifts, were in perfect time to the highlights of the music. They earned 107.74 points for the free dance and 178.07 overall.

Good as it was, Davis and White are confident the program will get better with time.

"We got Level 4s on everything but the footwork, and those are obviously the most difficult," White said. "We want to go back and figure out what edge we weren't on at what point. That can be tricky.

"I think we've already talked about the nuances, and I think we can hit [those] more and make the program more seamless."

Pechalat and Bourzat's Egyptian-inspired free dance was highlighted by three striking lifts, but it looked a tad slow and careful. The team was clearly handicapped by Bourzat's illness.

The skater doubled over at the end of the routine and had to be helped into the kiss and cry by the couple's coach, Pasquale Camerlengo.

"It was a nightmare for me today but we made it through the end with no major mistakes," Bourzat said between coughing fits. "It is still a raw program from the beginning of the season . . . it was a nice performance -- not great, but nice.

"We talked with the coach and he told me just try to go through the elements and go through the end, like it is an exhibition."

Tobias and Stagniunas, who train alongside Davis and White in Canton, Mich., shined in a charming 1950s medley that included "Let's Twist Again," "Only You" and "Tutti Frutti."

"It's incredible; it's really a validation of hard work, and we're just so thankful to have an opportunity to compete here," the New York-born Tobias said. "We thought we would get one Grand Prix, which we were already thrilled with."

"I have to thank [the U.S.] for inviting us; we came at the last minute," Stagniunas said. "Another team [Russians Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin] dropped out, and we were next in line."

Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, sixth in the short dance after missing several levels in their Rumba sequences, placed third in the free with a sexy routine to "You Put a Spell on Me."

The Americans, who teamed up six months ago, gained five Level 4 elements and scored 81.33 points, including a one-point deduction for an extended -- too long -- lift. Their overall score, 131.04, put them just 1.48 points shy of the medals.

"We felt good," Hubbell said. "Our goal after yesterday's performance was not to let our scores and the whole event overtake us.

"We stayed strong and confident in what we could do. It wasn't our perfect performance, but we fought for it and stayed aggressive."

After a tentative twizzle sequence near the top of their Les Miserables free dance, Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello skated with speed and authority, gaining Level 4s for two of their lifts. They placed eighth.

"We felt a little shaky at first, but that's kind of how our free dance goes," Cannuscio said. "We settle into it as the program goes on, but we felt good."