Olympic countdown is on for figure skaters training in metro Detroit

Ice dance teams skating in Canton, Bloomfield Hills and Novi to prepare for national championships, chance to be on Olympic team

Figure skaters training in metro Detroit are looking past the holiday season to the national championships in Boston.

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships begins January 5th and at the end of this national competition, the skaters who will represent Team USA in Russia will be announced.

In the ice dance field, five metro Detroit teams are hoping to earn their tickets to Sochi, Russia.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White have skated together for 16 years. Both Davis and White were born and raised in Detroit and they train at the Arctic Edge of Canton.

This will be a return to the winter games for this duo who won the silver medal for ice dance at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. They are also five time U.S. Champions, and in 2011 they became the first American team to win the World Ice Dancing Championships.   

During this season, Davis and White set a world record in ice dance with their win at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating final in Japan this month.  They edged out their training mates, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.   The difference in the two teams' scores was less than two points.

Virtue and Moir won the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic games.  

"I think our biggest competitors heading into the Olympics are the reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir," said White.

"I think definitely Charlie and I put a lot of pressure on ourselves and always have," said Meryl Davis. "I definitely think the expectations are a lot greater going into this Olympic games in terms of what people expect from us but we expect so much more from ourselves I think that we don't really allow the expectations or outside pressures to play a huge role."

"Meryl and I have always tried to just live in the moment," said White. "We try to go day by day because if you try to look too far ahead it all starts to feel really heavy on your shoulders because there is a lot we hope to accomplish."

Davis and White have won every Grand Prix event they have competed in this season including Skate America at Joe Louis Arena in October.

"We just have so much more experience, you know, we've won worlds twice now, and obviously there is always a lot of highs, a lot of lows. We have the experience of an Olympic games already under our belt," said Charlie White.

Davis and White are very focused on not only returning to a second Olympics, but on winning a gold medal. The team has spent two years perfecting one of the lifts in their free program, and both put their college careers at the University of Michigan on hold for this year.

"We're training just as hard as ever, in fact, probably harder than in 2010," said White. "Our expectations are a bit higher, you know, we'll be shooting for gold instead of just trying to get on the podium."

Davis and White try not to let the pressure to succeed this year affect them.

"I think, definitely Charlie and I put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we always have. I definitely think the expectations are a lot greater going into these Olympic Games in terms of what other people expect from us, but we expect so much more out of ourselves, I think that we don't allow the expectations or outside pressures to play a huge role," said Davis.

There are four other ice dance teams training in metro Detroit that would like to make the US Olympic team alongside Davis and White. A total of three ice dance teams will compete for the U.S. in Sochi, Russia.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates train at the Skating Club of Novi. The duo has skated together since 2011.  They won silver at nationals this year and are working with Igor Shpilband, the ice dance coach who trained Davis and White and other ice dancing greats. During this season, they won bronze at the Cup of China and a second bronze at the Rostelecom Cup.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are a brother sister team that has skated together for 10 years. They also train at the Arctic Edge of Canton. The team won bronze at Skate America and a second bronze at the NKH Trophy.

Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue began skating together in 2011 and are also making their first run for the Olympics. They won bronze at Skate Canada and were U.S. bronze medalists in 2012.

Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti -Schmitt have been an ice dance team since 2006 and are another team to watch. They did not compete in the Grand Prix series this season, but are 2012 U.S. pewter medalists. This year they began training at the Skating Club of Novi to work with coach Igor Shpilband to make changes that would make an impact on the audience and the judges.

These ice dance teams are competing at international events all over the world and will all compete at the national championships in Boston, MA in January. The three ice dance teams competing in Sochi, Russia will be announced at this event.

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