On Our Radar
From the ice-dancing dominance of Meryl Davis and Charlie White to what will be a duel in the ladies' competition, here's what we're watching heading into this week's U.S. championships. Michelle Smith »Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
PARK CITY, Utah -- Any edge, no pun intended, could enter into the calculation as ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White pursue the Olympic gold medal that just eluded them four years ago.
Will setting their free dance to a famous piece by a Russian composer (Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade") under the guidance of a Russian coach they unabashedly call a genius help them connect with the crowd at the Sochi Games? If they put together the complete package, they said Tuesday at the Olympic media summit.
The duo said they toyed with using the piece a few years ago, but is glad they saved it for the ideal competitive moment. The music is a way of honoring Russian influence on dance in general and coach/choreographer Marina Zoueva's tutelage specifically, they said.
"It never hurts to have the support of the crowd ... at the end of the day, it's really about moving the audience, making that emotional impact," Davis said.
But in a development no one could have foreseen a decade or two ago when the Russians dominated the discipline, Davis and White will have to try to dethrone fellow North Americans for the title: their friends and rink-mates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. The tandems have gone 1-2 at the past four world championships, with Davis and White prevailing in the past two editions.
Davis and White say it wouldn't be "healthy" to focus on the Olympic gold medal itself, and manage to be convincing when they talk about refining their already superlative chemistry.
"When we won worlds in 2011, one of the things that helped us [defend] is that we didn't say, 'Let's continue at this level and expect the same results,"' White said. "Our expectations go beyond any given placement ... staying in character from beginning to end, and keeping everyone enthralled."
The short program could prompt a world-wide sing-along. It will be set to music from "My Fair Lady," including, naturally, "I Could Have Danced All Night."
"It's bubbly, light, elegant, fun," Davis said.
Davis and White joked easily about their snail's progress toward undergraduate degrees at the University of Michigan -- they've crawled past the start lines of their junior years and are taking this academic year off for obvious reasons. "Each passing year is bringing us closer to the Guinness Book of World Records [for tenure as students]," White said.
The refreshing thing about them is their obvious desire to keep learning on the ice after all this time.
PARK CITY, Utah -- Evan Lysacek's scintillating gold medal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics had everything but a quadruple jump. Conventional wisdom said that would be the last time a champion could afford to do without the biggest trick. The sport was advancing inexorably, and even though there are still very few men who can land clean quads consistently in competition, there's no doubt the attempt will be necessary in Sochi.
Lysacek knew that, and he had included a quad toe loop in a short program run-through on Aug. 21. He took a violent spill and stayed off the ice for a month because of an abdominal tear. But the pain returned when he resumed training, and doctor-ordered imaging last week revealed a tear to his left labrum that seriously endangers Lysacek's chances of competing at all this Olympic season.
The 28-year-old Chicago-area native had already pulled out of a competition this month and Monday told reporters at the Olympic media summit that he would be forced to skip Skate America, the first Grand Prix event of the season and an important bellwether for Lysacek back in his heyday. (Jason Brown, who won silver at the 2013 world juniors, will take Lysacek's place in the lineup.)
Lysacek joked that his rehab "has all the makings of a gripping reality show -- constantly developing, new characters constantly entering into the list." But his demeanor was subdued. He called his return to training on ice "a recent development" and didn't delve into specifics, saying only that he is being cautious and following doctors' orders.
In order to compete at the Olympics, Lysacek must first log a minimum qualifying score of 25 points in the technical elements of the short program and 45 points in the free skate -- basically, the equivalent of breathing and staying upright -- at an international competition.
The U.S. national championships in Boston in January, where the team will be selected (results generally prevail, but there is some discretion), doesn't count in that equation. At the moment, Lysacek has no other Grand Prix assignment or invitation. He said he is working with the U.S. Figure Skating Association to find an event or events where he can meet the standard and shake off the rust.
Gracie Gold has a new coach, and a legendary one at that.
The figure skater announced Wednesday that she has been training with Frank Carroll, who helped Evan Lysacek win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Michelle Kwan take home worlds titles.
"I'm happy to be working with Frank Carroll," Gold said in a statement released by U.S. Figure Skating. "He's a wonderful coach. I'm grateful for this opportunity and I am looking forward to the future."
Gold's previous coach was Alex Ouriashev, but the two parted ways in August.
"I am excited to be coaching Gracie," Carroll said in a statement. "We have been working together for about a week now and I feel like we are a good student-coach match. I'm looking forward to the progress she will continue to make as an athlete."
Gold, who won the silver medal in this year's U.S. Championships, will next compete at next month's Skate Canada International and the 2013 NHK Trophy event in November.