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Let’s step back for a minute - for the big competitions how far in advance do you begin to buckle down and focus?
Meryl Davis and Charlie White skate in the free dance during the
Skate America competition at the ShoWare Center on October 21,
2012 in Kent, Wash.
MD: Three weeks before each competition is when our training starts to focus less on just getting better and more on that competition in particular. Our coach Marina has a really specific kind of training regimen in terms of how much we're doing on which specific day – and that regimen starts three weeks before competition.
CW: We always skate for five hours a day. But in this three-week period it becomes much more intense in spurts. So because of how intense doing this back-to-back program training can be it's really important to focus on sleep, diet, pretty much anything that can make us feel as good as possible. We get to the rink and we're nervous because we know how lousy we're going to feel at the end of the day but we also understand that's what it takes. We go three weeks back from the competition, for two weeks we have super intense training and then the week before the competition we ease off a little bit...not mentally but we don't do quite so many programs, not so many run-throughs. Then the week of the competition you’ve been able to relax a little bit, you’re mentally prepared and at that point you’re just ready to do your best.
Ok – so now it’s time to see how much bobsled and ice dancing have in common!
You've seen bobsledders doing their funny looking driver ‘dance’ where they'll visualize the run 10-plus times the day of competition.
How often are you doing that? Are you going through your whole program over and over again in your minds the day of competition?
CW: I think occasionally, but it's not really something we sit down and do. I think the difference comes in because we're always doing the same thing whereas most bobsled runs are different from each other, right? So when a bobsledder is at the track and you understand what the run is going to be, you need to internalize it more as fast as you can. So for us, we've been doing that for the entire season.
Wow - that’s a pretty good explanation; I’m impressed with your ability to compare the two!
So then the motor skills are already there and everything is automatic?
CW: Exactly. A lot of the time, it can be good for us to shut off our thinking a little bit because if you think too much that's when we can, as figure skaters, sort of throw ourselves off. A lot of time it's better for us to let our bodies do what they know what to do at that point.
That makes a lot of sense. So I just have one last question for you two. The four of us were a family on Team Night Train and we would get on each other’s cases to ensure we were all doing our jobs throughout the course of the season.
You two have to operate as a family, so honestly, who is in charge of making sure the other one is getting stuff done?
CW: (Laughing) We’re pretty good at keeping track of ourselves and when it comes to training we really are fortunate to have a coach that we trust and we can put all of our faith into. So when she tells us to jump, we just ask, “how high?” We've never had any issues where Meryl is taking it easy and I'm saying, "Ah! We've got to get ready Meryl, come on!"
MC: And honestly, not once in our 15-year partnership have we ever had anything like that happen.
Come on, you two can tell me the truth – no one will find out, I promise!
CW: Really, definitely one of the reasons why we've been able to have such success is because we're on the same wavelength. It is rare.
MC: And actually it's a good point that I haven't really thought about before, but I think that’s part of the beauty of the balance Charlie and I have with our coach. Charlie and I are always so excited and so ready to work that she is more pulling back the reigns than trying to get us going. It's never really a problem that he or she isn't motivated, it's more that she tells us that we have to slow down and take a breath.
CW: "You actually don't have to kill yourself today" is something we hear from Marina all the time.
MC: During those last weeks heading into a big competition, sometimes, often times actually, I'll say to Charlie, “do you feel like we haven't done enough today?” And Charlie says, "This is always what happens!”
And lately, what always happens is this kind of preparation and camaraderie leads to Meryl and Charlie forcing their competition to take an ever closer look at how they prepare.
I hope by exposing Meryl’s tendency to take five-hour naps on competition days and Charlie doing his best not to be a bobsledder, I haven’t somehow managed to give up all of their tricks.
Best of luck in Omaha you two and try to avoid Moscow traffic while you’re there!