Closing the competitive door after capturing the 2014 Olympic ice dance title with Charlie White opened so many others for Meryl Davis. The 33-year-old has discovered new ways to soar in life, both within the sport and beyond, and is embracing each and every opportunity.
When Meryl Davis stepped away from the skating spotlight, she had a bucket list of ideas she wanted to explore. But as she wound her way through that list, she discovered nothing there that she could see herself doing for the rest of her life. Even though she was open to any and all opportunities that might come her way, Davis admitted she found the shift away from the competitive world to be somewhat challenging initially.
Shortly after the 2014 Olympic triumph, Davis and White went head-to-head on the reality television show “Dancing with the Stars.” Davis skated away with the mirror ball trophy and the hearts of a global audience. It marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life.
Throughout her competitive career, she had pursued an education and last December Davis graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. “Charlie and I always prided ourselves on having a life outside of skating —pursuing our education and stuff like that, but I still found it very difficult moving away from competition,” she recalled. “Not because I wanted to be competing, but because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I spent quite a few years allowing myself to explore and try new things — to sort of figure out what spoke to me, without overthinking it. I just now understand the direction that I want to take my professional life in, but it took a while.
“It’s been a really interesting transition. It’s not always been easy, but it’s something that is really good, to let yourself go through to figure out what’s next. It’s like skating: You move, you take a step and you sort of figure out what’s going on, find your balance, adjust and keep going. I think that life is like that. Finishing my degree was something that was always very important to me, and I am so glad to have seen that through.”
It has been six years since Davis and White last competed, and she is now eager to share what she has learned through her own journey with other athletes who are struggling with the transition from sport to real life. “One of the things I would encourage any athlete to remember is that it’s OK to not be good at something right away. I think that’s a very foreign concept for an Olympian,” Davis explained. “We identify as elite athletes, and we place so much of our value and our worth on our need to perform at a high level. And so, as you move on and start to explore other areas of life and professional opportunities, this fear of being inadequate, this fear of not being good at something right away, can really hold you back. Learning to embrace the newness of it all is huge.”
Davis also stresses the importance of being surrounded by a team of people who can be relied upon to provide guidance when navigating the world outside the competitive arena. “Having a support system is another thing that I would encourage athletes to seek out because through sport we have our coaches, our physical therapists, costume designers and a federation that is there for us,” she said.
“Of course, there are resources for us as we move on, but we’re really paving our own path in a different way than any of us have ever done in our lives. When you start skating at 5 years old, you approach things differently — there is sort of only one direction to go in — so having a support team around you as you are making that transition into your new life is hugely important.”
In 2018, Davis landed a position as an interview host for the Olympic Channel. It is a role that fits her like a glove. “I ended up doing some special features which I wasn’t seeking out necessarily, but as I went through that competitive season I realized how much I enjoy doing sit-down interviews with skaters,” she said. “Perhaps addressing less the skating itself and more their lives, their personalities and what motivates them as athletes and as people is actually really fun for me. It’s something that I think that I might want to pursue more of — really diving in and telling people’s stories.”
In the short time since Davis took on this job, she has learned many things, one of which is that it is not always easy to get an athlete to open up during an interview. Davis understands it is part of her job to approach a story from different angles, but as an athlete who has been in the spotlight, she is aware of why some might be a little conservative in their responses.
“Charlie and I were always so focused on what was happening on the ice, we always felt that whatever we were doing off the ice was either secondary or even sometimes a distraction,” she explained. “Looking back now on interviews when we were competing we were always honest, but we were hesitant to explore our own opinions and ideas outside the world of sport for a variety of reasons. First, we were so into the world of sport — that bubble was very real for us. When it comes to commenting on politics or on our personal lives and beliefs as people off the ice, that is something not a lot of athletes want to dive in to.
“As an athlete, one of the main goals is to avoid distraction and focus on the task at hand, and that comes across when people are doing interviews.That’s OK. There are ebbs and flows with one’s comfort level with the media, and that comes with knowing yourself. Athletes know themselves so well on the field of play, and sometimes that self-identity is so wrapped up in that, it is hard to connect with who you are off the field of play.”
Although they formally retired from competitive skating in 2017, Davis and White still perform in shows around the world. However, the logistics are somewhat more challenging these days, given that Davis currently resides in Los Angeles while White still lives in his native Michigan. Davis, who maintains a house in her home state, returns to train with White when they are preparing for a show. “It’s a combination of just setting aside the time to get the training in and just being lucky that we have such a long history together,” she said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have been skating together for the past 22 years.
“We’ve been struck over the last several years by just how in sync we always are — whether we are seeing each other frequently or less so. We just feel really lucky that those more than 20 years really help us sort of know what to expect from the other person and know where the other person is on the ice.”
Davis said that no matter what she and White are doing, they always maintain contact and check in with each other. Though they have talked loosely about retiring, their love of skating has not diminished and both feel fortunate that it is still such a big part of their lives, both on and off the ice.
“Skating makes us happy and we will keep doing it as long as we still enjoy it — and we still do. At some point we will stop, but I don’t know when that will be. Charlie and I love skating together and we love performing, but we are both also pursuing different interests and different paths off the ice.”
Over the summer, Davis wed her longtime beau, Fedor Andreev, the 1999 Canadian junior champion and the son of her former coach, Marina Zoueva. The newlyweds held two ceremonies — the first in Provence, France, in June, and a second in her parents’ backyard in Michigan in late August.
“Fedor and I had always talked about doing a destination wedding, in Europe specifically. Adventure and travel is such a big part of our lives and we really wanted to share that with our loved ones for our wedding,” Davis explained. “A lot of our loved ones had not been out of the country before, so to be able to go on an adventure and share this really special experience with them abroad was something we were really excited to do.
“A lot of Fedor’s family is still in Russia, so it worked out that it was closer for them as well. I think the inspiration really speaks to who we are — we love adventure, seeing new places and finding beauty in those places. In southern Europe, I am always particularly drawn to the culture and the ability to sort of hit pause on daily tasks, sit down at a table, have a meal and just enjoy time with your family. That is what we wanted.”
As one of her grandmothers was unable to make the trip to France, Davis and Andreev decided to hold a second ceremony for her at home. “We couldn’t legally get married in France anyway — I think you have to be a resident there for a certain time to get married, so that all worked out,” Davis explained. “The wedding in France was very emotional and it felt as if it was the culmination of the years of our relationship and our love.There were a lot of happy tears.It’s hard to put into words. It was more emotional in terms of our relationship.
“Our wedding in Michigan with my family and my dad’s mom was very emotional in terms of connecting with her. I’ve always been close with her, and so to have her be part of that life moment with us was really special. It was a very different feeling.”
Davis said she and Andreev are enjoying their life in California, though it took some time to adjust to their new surroundings. “I’ve always loved L.A., and I’ve always loved spending time there, but it took about a year or more for me to love living there. We love hiking and we take our dog to the beach every weekend. “There is so much that we are trying to embrace — the entrepreneurial spirit and the creative spirit that are so prevalent in Los Angeles.”
DAVIS & WHITE CLOSE OUT BRILLIANT CAREER