|Meryl Davis and Charlie White skate in the short dance during the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on Jan. 10, 2014 in Boston.
BOSTON – Meryl Davis and Charlie White reached a certain level of comfort with their short program that provided the perfect start in their quest for a record sixth U.S. title. The reigning world title holders preformed to Frederic Loewe's "My Fair Lady" with a level of comfort and playfulness that exceeded their usual standards at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships Friday.
As a result, it was they — not the judges, not the audience, not even the Olympic aspirations, but Davis and White — who had complete control of their result.
"Today, we kind of reached a comfort level with this program that we haven't been capable of achieving in competition so far," Davis said after the event.
"We've been putting a lot of pressure on ourselves and on the technical aspect and we finally reached a comfortable level where we can focus on having fun with the program."
The reigning Olympic silver medalists drew a score of 80.69 and a first-place finish in the short dance for a program that showed they were secure on their edges and in their step sequence. They danced swiftly and with strength that, even for their twizzels, had the audience mesmerized and applauding.
"When you've reach a point in the program where you can really just have fun, that's what we love most about skating — enjoying performing it for the audience,” Davis said.
Finishing behind Davis and White were 2013 U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Chock and Bates scored 73.41 and inspired a standing ovation for an expressive program.
"I got pretty excited at the end there," Bates said, adding a moment later, "Sometimes, when the stakes are high, the emotions run high as well, and I was just really thrilled with the performance and proud of Maddie.
"It's just the start of the week for us."
Rounding out the top three were 2013 U.S. bronze medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani. Aside from a few errors and inconsistencies with their twizzels, the siblings scored 68.00 points in a performance to a Michael Buble medley.
"We left some points out on the ice, unfortunately, but I think we were so happy to get the competition underway," Alex said. "We've been looking forward to this event for, it's safe to say, a while. It felt good out there."
Three ice dance teams will be nominated to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Sunday, pending approval by the United States Olympic Committee.
Davis and White are favored to earn Team USA its first gold medal in ice dancing at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The team earned silver behind Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in Vancouver, and have since earned two world titles and recently earned their fifth consecutive Grand Prix Final title.
U.S. figure skating was once led by the women, who medaled at every Olympic Winter Games the U.S. entered from 1968 to 2006, but Davis and White have emerged in recent years as the dominant force.
The U.S. has only won three Olympic medals in ice dance — two silver and a bronze.
"This has been a long time coming for ice dance," White said of the discipline's emergence, crediting the 10-point judging system and their Olympic predecessors, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who earned silver in 2006.
"It came at a time when we had a lot of talent surfacing. We’re really fortunate that we had Tanith and Ben breaking the mold for us. Getting that 2006 Olympic silver, personally, made it feel like it would be possible for us.
"They paved the way for all of us."