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Figure skating: Davis and White put tantrums on ice

Senior Dance gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform in the "Skating Spectacular" at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in O
Senior Dance gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform in the "Skating Spectacular" at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in O

By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) - No one would have blamed American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White if they had thrown a hissy fit and yelled at the top of their lungs that they had been robbed of the 2012 world title.

After all it was a tactic that worked well for Yevgeny Plushenko. Having picked up silver following a wobbly free skate at the 2010 Vancouver Games, the raging Russian went about declaring he was "the true Olympic champion" and promptly received a telegram from then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declaring "your silver is worth gold."

Yet petulant tantrums are not what Davis and White want to be known for, even if they have every right to feel aggrieved because instead of chasing a hat-trick of world titles in London, Ontario next week, they will be aiming for a second.

"I don't know we could have pulled off Plushenko's attitude," Davis told Reuters in a telephone interview before dissolving into laughter. "It seems to work for him."

White added: "(Making a fuss) goes against what Meryl and I are as people. We are very competitive people but at the end of the day if we can sit down and look each other in the eye and say we did everything that we could, we're going to be happy and we're not going to feel the need to belittle anyone or disagree publicly with anyone."

Every man, woman and squealing child sitting inside Nice's Acropolis Arena last March had thought the Americans eclipsed their friends, rivals, training partners and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to win their second successive world title after the Canadians produced a routine which even they described as being littered with "bobbles" and "stumbles."

In comparison Davis and White flew around the ice at a frantic pace for four minutes, seamlessly weaving in dazzling lifts into their dramatic performance to Strauss's Die Fledermaus ('The Bat').

If they needed any confirmation on just how well they did, the prolonged standing ovation from the hollering crowd provided the answer.

Unluckily for Davis and White, and luckily for the Canadians, the judges present in the arena seemed to have temporarily gone deaf and blind.

"In our minds we were champions because of the way we skated," said White, who stands out thanks to his shaggy mop of blond curls.

"You really feel you put your heart out there and you really want people to love your performance so it's hard when you're second best. But you can use that to your advantage, turn it around and come back the next year and that's what we're looking to do.

His 26-year-old partner added: "A great number of people came up to us and complimented us on our skate at the worlds and told us they thought that we deserved to win.

HURT ANYONE

"At the end of the day, all we can control is what we're putting on to the ice ourselves. It's definitely frustrating to come away with anything other than what you were aiming for.

"But after 16 years together as an ice dance team, we learnt there is only so much we can control. Worrying about things that are outside your control, they don't really hurt anyone but yourself. So we focus on what we can control."

'Control' has been their mantra all season as they have not put a skate wrong, winning all four international competitions they have entered with their mesmerizing Notre-Dame de Paris free program.

With less than 12 months to go to the Sochi Winter Games, where Davis and White will be aiming to become the first Americans to win an ice dance Olympic gold, their rivalry with Virtue and Moir has captured the public's imagination.

Performing routines that feature crowd-pleasing lifts, imaginative story-telling and rousing finales, the two North American couples have won every major title between them since Virtue and Moir struck gold on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Even the sudden overhaul of their coaching set-up - the couples had been trained by Russians Marina Zueva and Igor Shpilband for years before Shpilband was abruptly fired from their Michigan training base last June - has not thrown Davis and White off course.

Even the prospect of competing in the backyard of their greatest rivals does not pose a threat.

"It's no secret that this year's worlds is being held in Tessa and Scott's backyard which doesn't necessarily go in our favor as they are our closest competitors," said Davis.

"But it is the luck of the draw. While it's not the most favorable location for us, it's not going to hold us back from going for that gold again."

Davis, 25, was quick to point out that they trumped Virtue and Moir the last time they locked horns in Canada, at the Grand Prix final in Quebec City in 2011.

"It's nice sometimes to have a home crowd support you but sometimes it can feel like too much pressure," he said.

"Losing certainly ignites our fire and after what happened last year, it will be helpful to be able to say we are the reigning world champions heading into the Olympic year, especially since Scott and Tessa are the reigning Olympic champions.

"It doesn't hurt to have two world titles instead of one going into the Olympics."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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