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Meryl Davis and Charlie White make a statement in ice dancing

January 21, 2010 |  1:58 pm

Skaters SPOKANE, Wash. -- It doesn't take an experienced reader of tea leaves to decipher the likely significance of what happened in the opening phase of the ice dance competition at the U.S. Championships.

The victory in today's compulsory dance by Meryl Davis and Charlie White, even though the margin was slim, seemed to signal a changing of the guard in the United States.

It marked the first time Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto had lost any of the three phases of the competition at nationals since 2003, the year before they won the first of five straight national titles.

Davis and White, juniors at the University of Michigan, scored 45.42 for their performance of the Golden Waltz.  Belbin and Agosto, the 2006 Olympic silver medalists and four-time world medalists, scored 45.02.

Compulsories traditionally have been where Davis and White are weakest, so they have made a statement heading into Friday's original dance and Saturday's free dance.

They won last year's U.S. title when Agosto did not compete because of a bad back. Two months later at the world championships, Belbin and Agosto were second, Davis and White fourth.

There seems little question that both couples will make the 2010 Olympic team. The U.S. has three ice dance spots.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Charlie White and Meryl Davis compete at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday. Credit: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images