Feb 17, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT
SOCHI, Russia – Every moment of Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s very existence was planned up to when they took to the ice Monday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
And then they won an Olympic gold medal.
“We are completely unprepared for this moment,” White says into a camera backstage, where they’ve been whisked following an on-ice flower ceremony and photos. “We were completely prepared to go out there and skate and earn it but our brains have not caught up to what we’ve accomplished.”
What they have accomplished is this: They become the first American ice dancers to win Olympic gold in history and join the rarefied group of figure skaters who have won three medals after capturing silver in Vancouver and helping the U.S. to team bronze last week.
“We can’t take all the credit,” says White, sweat still pouring off his forehead. “We want to share it with so many people who have supported us over the years.”
But first, there were so many people to talk to: the dozens – if not couple of hundred – of members of the media that would fire questions at them, the new Olympic champions. Davis and White, still dressed in their Olympic-winning costumes, make their way interview by interview through the media mixed zone, talking to nearly 15 camera crews, then a slew of newspaper reporters.
They stop just once, their eyes caught by something on the wall behind an interviewer holding out a microphone: a TV screen with a replay of their final free dance.
“I’m still in utter disbelief,” Davis says a minute later after being whisked by the media handler to their next camera. “I feel like I’m going to wake up at any minute now. We’re so thrilled.”
The handlers hold stop watches, clicking START when a camera crew begins, allotting them 90 seconds – or about two or three questions – before giving them a whirling finger off to the side. “Wrap it up,” they’ll mouth.
Yet for Davis and White, things are just beginning. Every athlete at the Olympics knows he or she has a long list of media requirements following their respective competition, but for this gold-winning ice dance duo from the U.S., the thrilling days ahead will be nearly as exhausting as a two-practice day on the rink in suburban Detroit.
“It’s our whole lives,” Davis says of what they’ve been working towards. “More than our time on the ice – we’ve grown up together in every sense. So this is pretty special.”
But the one thing that they’ve never done is this: a media tour as Olympic gold medalists. “Congratulations!” NBC Olympics host Summer Sanders says to them before they speak on camera. They’ll hear that a lot on this night. From a lot of different people.
“Charlie and I keep looking at each other and saying, ‘It’s real,’” Davis had told NBC’s Andrea Joyce when they came off the ice.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” White tells a camera crew down interview line. “From one moment to the next it’ll sink in more, but we prepared ourselves so well for what we needed to do today – we focused so hard on that – that we weren’t prepared for what would come after. It may take some time to sink in.”
The questions help it sink in:
- “How does it feel?”
- “Have you spoken to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir yet?”
- “What does it mean to make history tonight?”
- “Do you remember first skating together when you were kids?”
“I had already been doing ice dance for six months and she hadn’t done it yet so I was pretty annoyed that I had to dance with her,” he says, laughing. “I had to go back a few dances that were lower level. But it was pretty obvious that she was going to hold her own no matter what we did even though she had never done it before. But we were sticking together like glue.”
They stuck by each other’s side for some 17 years, first winning a silver in Vancouver before tonight, a night that really only began at 10:11 PM, when they took to the ice. After finishing with the TV cameras, they make their way from the mixed zone directly into a packed press conference, where other journalists and more questions await, the team sitting at a table alongside Virtue/Moir, who they beat at the Olympics four years after settling for silver.
After the press conference, Davis/White are due on the NBC primetime set past 2 am. Yet on this night they have no golden dreams to dream anymore, mostly because they’ve already accomplished them.
Plans for what’s next?
“As far as moving forward,” White says. “I don’t even know where I’m sitting right now.”
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