Meryl Davis and Charlie White earned a commanding win in the ice dancing… (Danny Moloshok / Reuters )
Meryl Davis and Charlie White made the inside of a medium-sized arena in Ontario feel as if it were a ballroom in Vienna.
Davis and White, the world champion ice dancing team from the United States, flew across the surface with elegance even as they were performing almost flawlessly, combining intricate footwork with lifts that need power and strength until the crowd at Citizens Business Bank Arena came to its feet.
Skating to the music of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, Davis and White earned a commanding win in the ice dancing competition at Skate America on Saturday, scoring 178.07 points in their first major meet of the year. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France finished second with 156.29.
The performance earned Davis and White five perfect marks of 10 among the several scoring components, and it was a contrast to the skating in the men's free skate that was more about counting how many falls happened in each program than figuring out how many jumps were landed.
Defending U.S. national champion Alissa Czisny took the lead after the ladies short program with a score of 64.20. Italy's Carolina Kostner was second with a mark of 60.23, and Brea's Caroline Zhang third. The only flaw in Czisny's performance was the downgrade of a planned triple lutz-triple toe loop combination to a triple-double. The 18-year-old Zhang stepped out of her required double axel and finished with 55.05 points.
Michal Brezina, a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic, was the men's survivor, winning despite a fall, the turning of a triple salchow into a single and an unlikely stumble during his step sequence.
Brezina, who had a 10-point lead after the short program, finished with 216.00 points, good enough for his first Grand Prix-level tournament gold medal.
Kevin van der Perren, a 29-year-old Belgian veteran, completed one of only two fully rotated quadruple jumps and moved from fourth place after the short program to second with 212.48 points and ahead of current world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka of Japan, who fell twice, including on his quad attempt, and scored 212.09 points to finish third.
Richard Dornbush, 20, of Corona moved from fifth after the short to fourth place with the help of his completed quadruple jump, only the second time he has landed one in competition.
Dornbush, who skated a Western-themed program to music from "A Fistful of Dollars," couldn't keep the momentum he gained by landing the quadruple toe loop to open his program. He fell twice and scored 202.27 points.
Brezina, who finished fourth at last year's world championships, had listed a quadruple toe loop and a quadruple salchow as part of his free skating program to music from "The Untouchables," but he did neither. He said his coaches told him to play it safe.
"I was actually kind of mad when they told me I couldn't go for it," Brezina said, "because I was ready. I definitely want to prove for the next competition that I'm going to go for the quad even if my coaches are not ready. For the next competition, I just really want to prove that the jump will be there even if they say no."
There was not much to say other than "yes" after Davis and White's performance.
White said that he and Davis have had to grow into interpreting music such as the classical "Die Fledermaus" piece.
"It's easier now for us to understand the feeling of grandeur we needed to accomplish during the program," he said. "An appreciation for classical music and an appreciation for certain eras is something figure skaters are really able to acquire."
Still, Davis couldn't help but say she was pleased. "We are absolutely thrilled with how it went," she said.
The Chinese pair of Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao led the pairs competition after the short program with a score of 62.85. Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were second.