Mothers of Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis, Charlie White offer parenting advice
We ran into Cheryl Davis and Jackie White, the cutest moms at this year’s Winter Olympics. Davis and White, whose children Meryl Davis and Charlie White became the first American ice dancing pair to win gold, are close friends and can be seen in the stands cheering together. We spotted them at the Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue, proudly taking photos of their children on their iPhones as Meryl and Charlie signed autographs.
Metro: What was it like when you saw them win that gold medal? Did you expect it at all?
Davis: I thought it could go one way or another. We weren’t expecting it. We knew they worked really hard and they did a really good job but you never know until they bring up the scores.
White: There were several minutes of waiting after they finished where we thought they had done a brilliant job but they – we didn’t know until the scores came up for sure because there’s no way to know.
Davis: There’s no knowing.
You’ve been doing this for so long, you’ve been at the side of every ice rink – how did it feel?
Davis: It was fabulous. Very emotional.
White: It went from really, really hard to just elation in a matter of seconds – like a roller coaster.
What advice do you have to other parents who are training future Olympians?
White: Take it one day at a time. I think that’s the best advice. Take it one day at a time.
Davis: Let them enjoy it.
White: Yes. Absolutely. Let them enjoy it. Let it be their sport and don’t try to push them and make their goals for them.
What was the biggest struggle for you two as parents of athletes? You’re not quite on the ice but you’ve been behind them the entire time.
Davis: Sometimes I think it was watching how tired they would get. You can’t always step in and help. Sometimes it’s up to them and they have to do it for themselves. You can’t save them.
White: And there are the times when there are the disappointments where they worked really hard but they just weren’t good enough or ready enough. It just wasn’t their time. But you know how much they want it and how hard they’ve worked so you feel that disappointment right along with them. As a parent, that’s what hurts the most – seeing your child sad. But then they’d pick themselves up and go back to work and we would too. We’d hang in there and be supportive. But those were some tough times to watch.
What would you say to encourage them?
White: “Work harder. Go back to work. You can do it.” Just be a supportive and positive person. “If you really love it, don’t give up on it.”
Davis: Some of the times they didn’t come in first were probably the best learning experiences they ever had because it taught them something. They had to go back and work on something. It gave them a better work ethic. If they had won too soon they would never have built that work ethic.
Did you feel that way at the time, too?
Davis: We always did.
White: We always knew that good or bad, you learn something from it and you take something away from every experience and you learn how to make it work for you and we had enough time doing it to really see that work.
Did you feel from the beginning that Charlie and Meryl were a natural fit for each other?
Davis: The coaches said they were but they were just little kids.
White: We believed the coaches. But they looked cute together. We always knew that.
Davis: But we didn’t know.
White: We had no expectations. We just went one day at a time.
Davis: We’re still going one day at a time. We don’t even know what they’re doing tomorrow.
What are you doing tonight?
White: We’re doing the Colbert Show so that’ll be fun. We’ll probably try to get dinner with them. We haven’t had a lot of time with them since they won. In fact, the day that they won the gold medal we were both sick – [Davis] couldn’t even get out of bed – so we didn’t have a chance to see them at all until the next day. We’re looking forward to when they get home so we can have a family party and celebrate with them.
Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark