Ice Network

Skating success just beginning of Davis' dream year

Ice dancer named WSF's Sportswoman of the Year in team sport category
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Meryl Davis shows off her new hardware on the red carpet with tennis legend Billie Jean King and skating partner Charlie White. -courtesy of the Women's Sports Foundation

She's not even skating competitively this season, yet Olympic ice dancing champion Meryl Davis is still finding a way to win.

On Wednesday night, Davis was named the Women's Sports Foundation's Sportswoman of the Year in the team sport category. Partner Charlie White was at her side on stage as she accepted the award in downtown Manhattan.

"Just being nominated was a huge honor," Davis said of the category, which also included fellow Olympic gold medalists Kaillie Humphries (bobsled), Kerri Walsh-Jennings (beach volleyball) and Alisha Glass, who just won a world championship with the U.S. volleyball team. "Coming off of this year, I got to work with so many other female athletes at the Games, and this was such an interesting group of women. They're so vastly talented in so many ways."

The award caps what has been the busiest, most successful year of the 27-year-old Davis' career. It started with her and White winning their sixth U.S. title in January and continued with the two of them capturing the Olympic gold medal -- the first ever for a U.S. team -- in Sochi. Following that, she took home the mirror ball trophy in the 18th season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

Amid all the success, what has been the biggest takeaway for the Michigan native?

"Gratitude," Davis said, not missing a beat. "Charlie and I have been so focused for so long, working so hard not necessarily toward an Olympic gold but that sort of fulfillment and personal success. The feeling we had after [winning gold], it's something that we hadn't allowed ourselves to feel before. That level of gratitude is something special. It kind of changes your outlook moving forward."

There is no ice dancing for Davis and White this season, as they sit out competitions while they plot big things elsewhere. The duo has tabled any sort of decision on their skating future until after the world championships in March.

"We have a couple of projects in the works that I'm really excited about that I just don't want to talk about," Davis said. "I'm a little superstitious because I don't want to jinx it."

There was no jinxing her win Wednesday night from the group founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King, which aims to empower girls and women through sport.

"She's really blossomed over the years," noted Michelle Kwan, herself a recipient of the individual award in 1998, on the red carpet of the event. "Not only what she does with Charlie on the ice but as a person and what she did on Dancing, and you really got to see her personality. She's an incredible person on and off the ice."

Davis became the first figure skater to win the award in the team category, something that didn't surprise 2002 individual winner Sarah Hughes.

"This is phenomenal," the Salt Lake City gold medalist said. "They've been skating together for 18 years, which is unbelievable. Meryl has so much grace and kindness and elegance, and everyone she touches in her life leaves feeling better. She just has a wonderful way about her."

Davis has soaked up the success and attention of being a gold-medal winner. With her celebrity growing by leaps and bounds -- she now has over 166,000 Twitter followers -- her time is mostly spent doing things other than skating.

"We've gotten the chance to do so many incredible things, from Dancing to getting way more involved on the business side of things," Davis said, mentioning morning yoga sessions and some tennis here and there. "We've taken on different roles than we had before, and it's opening our eyes to that world. There has been a lot of growing and learning in a lot of respects, which has been really cool."

"I think what Meryl brings to the table as a competitor and athlete really transcends any category," White added. "That's part of what makes her special. It's what made her qualified to win this award. It's been an honor to work alongside of her for so many years. I don't think I've ever met anyone that is so dedicated and passionate about what they do. That's not lip service; it takes everything you have to win an Olympic gold medal."

Davis said she was startled after Sochi with how quickly she bounced back, anticipating her body and mind to need much more than a two-week respite.

"I remember feeling drained leading up to the Olympics," Davis recounted. "I expected myself to take months recovering and recuperating and just resting, but a week and a half into vacation, I couldn't sit still after Sochi. I was so excited about the chance to do new things and branch out. I wasn't expecting myself to be to be so excited so quickly with what was to come."

Looking back at the year, Davis said she gained more confidence from Sochi than she expected, loves when fans stop her on the street ("They don't call me a figure skater, they call me an ice dancer! That's pretty cool for our sport."), feels "strange" when she's at home and not training, and has appreciated stepping out of her comfort zone because it's "exciting, intimidating and challenging all at once."  

"I'm really passionate about living life to the fullest," a reflective Davis said. "I've always had goals and dreams beyond the skating world as well. All of this year has made me excited about what else was out there, and want to continue to grow and learn and develop as a person."