SOCHI, Russia — Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the Olympic short dance Sunday and are now one performance away from a gold medal.
The reigning world champions earned an international personal best 78.89 points and lead 2010 gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada by 2.56.
Virtue and Moir rebounded from a shaky performance in the team event with a much stronger showing. But Davis and White, skating last, have overtaken their training partners over the last four years, and it was no different Sunday.
“I told Charlie in the middle of the program I felt like I was in a dream,” Davis said. “It is such a surreal experience.”
The free dance is Monday, when Davis and White can become the first Americans to win Olympic gold in ice dancing.
A Russian team was in third, but it wasn’t world bronze medalists Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov were 3.29 points behind Virtue and Moir.
France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were fourth, just 0.26 out of the bronze position. Bobrova and Soloviev were fifth.
Davis and White’s twizzles are at another speed from the rest of the field, and yet they spin across the ice in perfect unison. Skating to “My Fair Lady,” they gaze at each other and into the crowd with an exuberant bliss.
“They fly,” said their coach, Marina Zoueva, who also works with the Virtue and Moir. “And you can see at the same time where they are strong. And they are so light at the same time and so flowing. … They really did the best this program can be done, with joy. Total joy.”
When it was over, they held their embrace for a few extra seconds.
“We kept in the moment and neither of us was pushing it,” White said. “We were out there enjoying each other’s company. This was special for us.”
The other American teams, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, were eighth and ninth.
Virtue had a bobble on a twizzle during the team short dance. On Sunday, their trademark crispness and vivacity were back as she and Moir performed to jazz standards from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. In his black bowtie and suspenders, Moir, ever the showman, smiled coyly from start to finish, eyebrow arched. Virtue’s face beamed brighter than the sparkles on her flapper-style dance.
With the two still posed cheek to cheek just like the lyrics to the final song in their medley, Moir shouted out “Yes!” and pumped a fist. He whirled across the ice in celebration, then lifted Virtue into the air, burying his face in her shoulder.
“That was more like it,” Moir said afterward.