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BOSTON -- The pressure of being your country's favorite for an Olympic gold medal is no big deal, Charlie White said. "It's just like insomnia -- you never sleep."
White quickly added that he was joking about that. "Nah, I think because we've always put so much pressure on ourselves throughout our career, it's been sort of a healthy pressure to this point," he said. "We recognize the pressure from the outside, but we feel like we expect more than anyone else expects of us. I think that's what gets us through the tough times is being able to count on each other."
White and partner Meryl Davis performed as if they felt no pressure whatsoever in Friday's short dance routine at the U.S. figure skating championships. Skating to "I Could Have Danced All Night" with such grace and ease, it was if they too could have danced all day and all night, as the reigning world and U.S. champions received a score of 80.69 for their highest mark yet for a short routine.
"I think that today we reached a comfort level with this program that we haven't necessarily reached before," Davis said. "I think we've been putting a lot of pressure on ourselves for the technical aspects. I think we've reached a comfort level where we can focus on having fun with the program, which is really what this program is all about.
"In addition to that, we know this is the last outing before we hope to be heading to the Olympics, so we want to put out performances that will make us even more excited and even more confident going into the Games."
Madison Chock and Evan Bates were second with a score of 73.41 while siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani were third (68), and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were fourth (66.69). The U.S. will send three dance pairs to Sochi.
Making the performance of Chock and Bates even more impressive was that Madison crashed hard into the boards during a practice session Wednesday. She lay still on the ground for several seconds before rising and continuing with the practice.
"The boards are OK," she said Friday. "I'm OK, a little sore, but the boards are definitely in worse shape than I am. My shoulders are a little store just from the impact."
Bates said that before they took the ice, coach Igor Shpilband told them, "Skate to win.''
"He wants us to be pushing upwards," Bates said. "He wants us to be pushing toward Meryl and Charlie."
Just as everyone else must if they want to challenge for gold in Sochi.
"We are looking to become the national champions and leading this U.S. team into the Olympics," White said. "We took a really good step forward in that direction and proud of our effort and looking forward to the free dance."