Ice dancing pairs Meryl Davis and Charlie White, along with Evan Bates and Emily Samuelson, all have their eyes on the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The four U-M students took off Winter Semester to focus on skating competitions, especially the recent U.S. National Championships in Spokane, Wash. And with them landing spots on the U.S. Olympic team, it appears taking that hiatus paid off.
“The Olympics has been in our minds so much this season and we’ve been so focused on training and doing everything we could to prepare ourselves for the games,” Davis says. “After officially being named to the U.S. Olympic team, we were forced to kind of take a step back and realize how great of a privilege it is just to be named to it. There were several events following the selection of the team and every time we were announced as Olympic team members we felt the excitement over and over again.”
Once the pairs arrive in Vancouver, where they will stay approximately Feb. 10 to March 1, they will compete in the ice dance event. The category consists of three components: the compulsory dance (Feb. 19), the original dance (Feb. 21) and the free dance (Feb. 22).
Samuelson and Bates say they are “ecstatic about making the Olympic team.”
“It’s still incredibly surreal and overwhelming,” Samuelson says. “There are times when I just consider this another competition that I need to train and prepare for and then suddenly it will hit me that I’m going to the Olympic Games, something I’d only ever dreamed about and admired on TV.
“We’re both extremely honored to be representing the United States at the Olympics. It truly means a lot to us.”
Dr. Eric Bates, professor of internal medicine at the Medical School, was in Spokane, Wash., with his wife Nancy to watch as their son, Evan, and Samuelson made the Olympic team, after placing third during the U.S. National Championships.
“Every child athlete dreams about being an Olympian before reality sets in. It must be an amazing experience when the lucky few figure it out,” Eric Bates says. “We are told the Opening Ceremonies really brings it home to them.”
Bates and Samuelson, who are sophomores at U-M, spend eight hours a day, six days per week at the Cube in Ann Arbor. They are coached by Iouri Tchesnitchenko and Iaroslava Netchaeva.
To prepare for the Olympic games, the two train on the ice for almost four hours a day and supplement their on-ice training with off-ice workouts and classes, such as ballet and ballroom dance. They also run and stretch every day.
Both Bates and Samuelson have yet to declare a major at U-M, but Samuelson says her interests include business, sports psychology, international relations and physical therapy. The skaters say they plan to take spring and summer courses to make up for missing Winter Semester in order to compete.
Davis and White, who are juniors at U-M, skate at Arctic Edge in Canton roughly four hours a day, five days per week. They also work out 4-1/2 hours a week and do ballet, Davis says. The pair, coached by Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, has skated together for 13 years.
“In many ways, we’ve been working towards this point our entire lives,” White says.
Balancing school with getting ready to compete has been a challenge, but made easier with the support of those around her, White says.
“We really enjoy attending school and are so grateful for the support of our fellow students and professors. It is very difficult to travel abroad as often as we do while keeping up with our schoolwork. The cooperation of our teachers has been so appreciated and helpful.”
Davis focuses her studies on cultural anthropology and Italian, while White says after earning his undergraduate degree he is interested in attending law school.
While they are taking this semester off, Davis and White say they take things “one day at a time” when skating while in school.
“The toughest part is returning from a week away and being bombarded with exams, papers, etc. upon our arrival home,” White says. “There is usually a day or two of locking ourselves in our rooms to squeeze in all the work we’ve missed. We realize how important our schoolwork is to us and our futures, though, so we always manage to get the job done.”
Once the Olympics are over, there’s no rest for the ice skating pairs. Next, they are off to complete March 23-28 at the World Championships in Torino, Italy.
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