Meryl Davis mesmerizes with a memorable gold medal showing in Sochi

Over the last decade, the state of Michigan has seen some remarkable sporting achievements. From the Detroit Pistons winning an NBA title and the Detroit Red Wings capturing the Stanley Cup, to the Motor City hosting the Super Bowl, along with sporting dominance from Michigan State University and the Tigers baseball club, it has been a golden era for sport.

The gold medal accomplishment of Meryl Davis and Charlie White only adds to a proud sporting legacy. With the state having endured various economic hardships, Davis and White represent the state’s fighting spirit and its will to carry on. Hailing from West Bloomfield, Michigan, Davis also had the opportunity to be featured on a Topps trading card commemorating the various athletes competing in Sochi.

After a silver medal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Davis and White, the longest running American-based team in the ice dance, returned to training with a renewed sense of purpose. Having skated together since 1997, their chemistry was evident as their dominance at the US and World Championships since Vancouver 2010 spoke volumes about their determination and their talent.

Their hard work yielded remarkable results in Sochi as they became the first US couple to claim gold in ice dance in the 38-year history of the sport in the Winter Games. Graceful, yet determined, Davis captivated fans through her performances featuring flawless precision.

Not afraid to engage in a technically challenging program, there was definitely an element of sensuality in their performance. Skating to Scheherazade, they would interpret the story of a Persian king and the enchantress who seduces him during their performance, Davis was adorned in a lavender dress that dared with jewels around the midriff. Along with the ability to provide to perform tight traveling spins known as twizzles, Davis and White earned themselves a Winter Games record for highest score.

Having also helped the United States to a bronze medal in Sochi for the inaugural Winter Games event of Team Figure Skating, the medals Davis has won in the Games now covers all the colors of the Olympic spectrum (gold, silver and bronze). With the inaugural event being contested in the early days of Sochi, it provided fans with a sneak peek of what to expect when Davis and White would skate for gold in the ice dance a few days later.

Of note, there was a controversy before and during Sochi in Canadian media, because they share the same trainer, Russian-born Marina Zoueva, as Canadian rivals and friends, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (the gold medalists in Vancouver). French media even suggested that there was a scandal with regards to American and Russian judges. Not playing up to the controversy, Davis and White proved that they were truly deserving of the moniker of world champions.

While the competitions between Davis & White and Virtue & Moir on-ice entail one of the bigger rivalries in the Winter Games, the Canadian and American skaters have known each other since 2001. Beating their long-time friends by merely 2.56 points (116.63 points to 114.66) made the win much more intense.

As a side note, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, along with Maia and Alex Shibutani earned eighth and ninth place finishes, it provides hope for another strong US showing in Pyeongchang 2018. Perhaps the most heart-warming aspect of the ride to the gold that Davis and White undertook was the three genuine and sincere words uttered to Davis after the performance. An emotionally exhausted White buried his head in Davis’ shoulder and said “I love you.”

Davis follows in the footsteps of other legendary American female figure skaters such as Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Jill Trenary, Nancy Kerrigan and Sarah Hughes. Considering that ice dance was an event that the United States was not dominant at for several years, Davis would emerge as a pioneer, possibly inspiring a new generation of young women to compete.

While she is planning to retire from amateur competition, there is no question that her grace and beauty makes her a natural to participate in the professional circuit. For now, her role in adding to the great sporting history that Michigan has recently experienced, not only raises the morale of a dejected state, but endears her to a state of fans that respect her determination to succeed.

Figure skating hero Tessa Virtue launches 2014 with reality series

After grabbing the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were known affectionately as Canada’s Sweethearts. As this dynamic duo looks to repeat as gold medal champions at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, their efforts are being immortalized on film.

Reality program “Tessa & Scott” made its debut on Canada’s W Network on January 2, 2014. Moir had disclosed to the Canadian Press that the filming of the program was a way for them to look back on their journey towards Sochi. Virtue added that the show did not affect their training and the two became friends with the members of the crew.

TessaScott

With the program divided into seven episodes, the seventh and final episode shall air in February, right before the beginning of the Games. The program represents an adventure for the 24-year old Virtue, who provides fans with an all-access view into her day-to-day life.

Despite the pressure that comes with training for competition on the world’s biggest stage, accompanied by a full-time television crew, Virtue carries herself with remarkable poise. Considering that Virtue is working towards a degree in psychology at the University of Windsor, she certainly has the mental toughness to excel.

Having skated with Moir since 1997, the two would become the first Canadian ice dancers to win gold at the World Junior Figure Skating championships. Their gold in Vancouver was complemented by triumph at the 2012 World Figure Skating championship. With such a life-long relationship on the ice, the first episode of the series tries to answer the question of whether they have a relationship off it.

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine's 2013 edition of The Beauty of Sport. Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine’s 2013 edition of The Beauty of Sport. Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

For Virtue’s fans, it may come as a surprise to know that she began her athletic endeavors in athletics and ballet, rather than on the ice. At the tender age of nine, she was forced to decide between entry into the National Ballet of Canada or the choice to skate full-time with Moir. Ironically, Moir began figure skating as an initiative to improve his hockey skills. To further add to the irony, it was Moir’s aunt Carol who coached both of them when they started figure skating.

Enjoying time together at a summer fair in the opening of the first half-hour episode, it only helps to fuel the speculative fires. Although the most prevailing element of the program was certainly tension. Virtue and Moir are trained in Canton, Michigan by Marina Zueva, the former trainer to Russian pair Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. Compouding their woes is the fact that Zueva also trains their rivals, American skaters Meryl White and Charlie Davis.

February 22, 2010: A jubilant Virtue and Moore proudly display the Canadian flag after earning the gold during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (Image: PacificCoastNews.com)

February 22, 2010: A jubilant Virtue and Moore proudly display the Canadian flag after earning the gold during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (Image: PacificCoastNews.com)

Such a balance is difficult to maintain when one must try to be focused yet graceful, despite the presence of their rivals in the same facility. The one key difference is that Virtue and Moir have also relied on the consultation of former Canadian ballroom dancing champion and TV personality, Jean-Marc Genereux. Although it may be awkward for viewers when Genereux suggests to Moir that he run his hand up and down the figure of Virtue in order to bring about the passion needed for successful ice dancing.

Later in the episode, Moir shows his possessive side when a fellow male skater asks Virtue if they could share a night out together. Suddenly, Moir gives a tongue-lashing to the interested skater. To the viewer, it would be easy to assume that he is carrying a flame for her. In true soap opera-like fashion, a later scene shows Moir embracing a lady with long dark hair at his front door in London, Ontario. Of course, this lady is not Virtue but another raven haired beauty named Cassandra.

Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

Photography by Matt Barnes. Image obtained from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=15

Proceeding into the bizarre, such a scene makes it clear that whatever relationship exists between the two is truly complicated. While Virtue comes across a little passive, future episodes will only begin to unravel the story that exists between these two.

Although the TV spotlight may add more pressure or expectation, it is an element that comes with being the world’s finest. Fans can only hope that the outcome of the series does not lead to embarrassment for the two. Although a thirty-minute program does not scratch the surface enough to reveal every aspect of their lives, it sets a unique precedent in Canadian sport.

Not since the hockey documentary The Game of Her Life in 1997 has there been such an in-dept view into the lives of world-class athletes. While modern television certainly incorporates its sense of drama and sex appeal, all methods employed to keep the viewer returning, the creative elements are such that one only hopes it enhances rather than tarnishes Virtue’s status as one of Canada’s female sporting heroes.

Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty in Sport Issue captures the essence with several captivating athletes

With photo shoots ranging throughout Canada and a rigorous five day shoot in Las Vegas, Sportsnet Magazine released its second annual Beauty in Sport issue. Although some critics could dismiss the publication as competition for the ESPN Body Issue, the reality is that both give the opportunity to spotlight female athletes who toil in anonymity for little recognition.

As Sportsnet is a Canadian periodical published by Rogers, the athletes featured between the covers are all Canadian. With 28 athletes featured, 19 are female. While even the most dedicated sports fan would have difficulty identifying the names of the female athletes (and the sport they compete in), their beauty and sex appeal is only part of the package.

The one common factor among all athletes is injuries, and bumps and bruises were evident with some of the athletes. X-Games world champion Kelsey Serwa arrived with a swollen knee due to surgery. Canadian soccer sweethearts Kaylyn Klye and Emily Zurrer both had scrapes up to their thighs.

In being an athlete, the commitment involved takes great desire, and the discipline and dedication required is a unique quality. Their hard work and character displays a very strong, rugged yet admirable inner beauty that makes them role models for all athletes, male or female.

While publisher Steve Maich acknowledged that it was different working with athletes because they were not models, he was also quick to acknowledge that all the athletes were likeable people. Although many of the female athletes are not household names, there was a few that certainly left their mark in the world of sport.

Competing in the cross-country mountain biking competition at London 2012, Brooklin, Ontario’s Emily Batty was the cover girl for the issue. The blonde beauty did not medal at London, but she certainly captured the hearts and minds of many sports fans with her magnetic smile on the cover.

Three females were gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; Kallie Humphries, Tessa Virtue and Meaghan Mikkelson. While all three come from very different sporting backgrounds – bobsleigh, ice dancing and ice hockey – all three are authentic Canadian heroes.

Mikk Meaghan Mikkelson

Another trio of heroes highlighted the females featured in the Beauty of Sport. A tantalizing trio of members from Canada’s soccer team that gained bronze at the 2012 London Summer Games was photographed in Las Vegas. Featuring Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer, all three donned their swimsuits while a dolphin would leap in the background behind them.

Rugby teammates Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters also exchanged their shorts and jerseys for swimsuits. Mervin, 31 and Waters, 30 are also members of the British Columbia provincial rugby team. The dynamic duo was photographed together at the MGM Grand and the Neon Museum.

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Of note, Mervin is accustomed to the camera. Having played with the national team since 2004, she was also part of a nude calendar in 2012 that featured members of Canada’s women’s rugby team.

While she leaves enough for the imagination, it is important to emphasize that Swervin Mervin (as she is affectionately known) is more than just beautiful. There is an even greater beauty beneath the surface. Having transitioned from 15s to 7s, she spends a remarkable five hours a day in training. She is an empowering woman whose great sense of teamwork, assistance with summer camps and coaching at the University of Victoria comprise makes her a role model for young women looking to get into sport.

Of all the athletes that ventured down to Las Vegas, the most unique may have been Summer Mortimer.
Mortimer Summer Mortimer

After a trampoline accident caused significant damage to the bones in her feet, she displayed great courage by learning to swim again. Having won four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she was one of Canada’s sweethearts at the event. Along with five world records in para-swimming, she was also named an Athlete Ambassador for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games. Appropriately, she grew up near Toronto in Burlington. At 20 years old, not only does she conduct herself with a quiet dignity and grace that makes her an admirable athlete, but she was one of the youngest athletes featured in the publication.

While she is the first paralympic athlete to appear in the Beauty of Sport, it is worth noting that the ESPN Body Issue has also featured physically challenged athletes. As Swimming World Magazine stated in a review of Mortimer appearing in the issue, athletes are not only a vision of health, but these kinds of photo shoots promote a healthy lifestyle and set a positive example.

Six other athletes were photographed at Las Vegas. Among the group, it included volleyball player Claire Hanna, a three-time CIS national champion with the UBC Thunderbirds. Forty year-old curler Heather Smith-Dacey and Kelsey Serwa, who competed in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was photographed at Red Rock Canyon.

World Cup skeleton champion Melissa Hollingsworth, a bronze medalist from the Torino Winter Games was photographed at the MGM Grand. Joining her at the venue was 2012 FIS World Cup gold medal skier Erin Mielzynski.

Four other athletes from this remarkable group of women were photographed in Toronto. A pair of track and field sensations, Brianne Theisen and Phylicia George was photographed at Monarch Park. George finished in the 100 meter hurdles at London 2012, while Theisen competed in the Heptathlon.
Sarah Wells, a competitor in the 400-meter hurdles at London 2012 modeled Nike (like George) for her photo shoot. Taylor Pischke, a beach volleyball player with six Canadian national titles was photographed wearing Miss Jackson swimwear at Ashbridges Bay.

Credit goes to Maich who acknowledged that compared to other countries, Canada needed to do a better job at elevating their athletes to star status. While fans may already be anticipating the 2014 edition, there is no question that the athletes featured are helping to shed a positive light on Canadian sport.

Photos of Summer Mortimer, Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters and Meaghan Mikkelson by Matt Barnes