SALT LAKE CITY — Every time reigning world champions and Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White step on the ice, they see it as a critical competition.
“We always feel pressure,” said Davis after the country’s most accomplished ice dancers earned a 73.67 score Friday afternoon in the short dance program of the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. “We have these goals for ourselves this year. We take this competition very seriously. We want to make a big impact with our first outing.”
Their score was good enough for first place, with Canada’s Andrew Poje and Kaitlyn Weaver scoring the event’s second-highest score in the short program with a 62.61.
“It’s where we want to be, where we’re at now,” said White, laughing at the tongue twister. “We weren’t worried coming in about anything in particular or wishing it was somehow different. It will continue to grow, and we’ll continue to improve a lot of things as we go over it, as we push harder and build a little more character.”
Davis said the two skaters, who won silver at the 2010 Olympic Games, understand they will improve as the season progresses.
“Certainly we’re not going to be in the shape now that we’re going to be in when we go to world’s,” she said. “But we’re looking to be the best we can possibly be this year, and to do that, we need to skate well here to get the feedback we want from the international judging. We take it very seriously.”
Davis and White have been together since 1998, and they feel their past success, which includes an undefeated season in 2010-11 that ended in their first world championship, gives them the perfect foundation on which to build.
“We do everything we can to make our skating special,” White said. “We’ve got a lot of great momentum from the last few years, and we’re just trying to keep that going. We feel like we have a great program this season that plays to our strengths, and make it stand apart from everybody else.”
In the ladies short program, two American skaters sit atop the leaderboard, despite falls for both. Gracie Gold, 18, the U.S. silver medalist, fell on her double-axel landing, while Agnes Zawadzki, 19, said she fell after a brief “out-of-body” experience.
“I kind of had a moment of, ‘Where am I?’” said Zawadzki, who scored a 56.27. “It’s happened to me before.” She said she immediately regrouped and presented a beautiful spin.
“I’m not here to do perfect programs,” she said. “It’s September, and I’m looking forward to November and January where it counts the most. I’m trying to find what works and what doesn’t. And I’m trying to stop myself from having those moments.” She said she engages in a mental pep talk to find herself after those moments.
“I told myself, ‘You’re right here in this moment’,” she said. “’Focus on what you’re doing.’ I honestly told myself to take a deep breath and trust myself for the rest of the program and present it.”
Gold broke the blade of one of her skates during Thursday’s practice, but she said that wasn’t the problem when she fell after landing her double axel.
“I really don’t know what happened,” she said. “I was a little bit nervous. ... I thought I landed it. It caught me off-guard because it was almost like I caught an edge. It was strange.”
Gold said she’d been working out with ice dancers in Ohio, and it was helping her with the performance aspects of the competition.
“I was pretty nervous today because I haven’t competed a short program in front of an audience,” she said. “But I was able to stay on my feet, and it looks like a good start to the season.”
Gold’s U.S. teammate, Courtney Hicks, 17, sits third after the short program with 54.80 points.
The women’s freeskate starts at 2:50 p.m. Saturday, while the ice dancers will present their free skate at 5:45 p.m.
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