SOCHI, Russia -- The borders of their uncertainty were broad, from Vancouver to Sochi.
From the moment in 2010 when Meryl Davis and Charlie White won an Olympic silver medal, many in the ice-dance world were certain they'd get gold four years later.
As splendidly as the American pair performed during that span, there was one stubborn ice rival, and four years was an eternity to wonder.
Monday night, as they stood motionless on the Iceberg Skating Palace ice, waiting to start their free-skate in the 2014 Olympic finals, they knew, one way or another, there were only four minutes left in their eternity.
Relaxing and building momentum through the culminating skate of their 17 years together, Davis and White easily outdistanced their Canadian adversaries and training partners to become the first Americans to win an Olympic ice-dance gold medal.
"It's been an amazing journey," said White.
Canada's Tessa Virtue and Charlie Mohr, who train with the winners in Michigan, took the silver. The Russian pair of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, who turned in the night's most electrifying performance, got the bronze.
Afterward, as they made their way through a flower ceremony and a series of interviews, the winners appeared not quite to have grasped the moment.
"We've been preparing so hard for four years for what we wanted to put out on the ice, focusing so hard on that, that I think we weren't really prepared for what may come after," said Davis. "I don't think it's really hit us yet."
That focus was evident in the grindingly tense minutes before they hit the ice, the last of 20 teams in the two-night competition.
"It's probably the most nervous you'll be in a lifetime," said White.
The Canadians, gold-medal winners at Vancouver, had skated three pairs before and put up a season-best free-skate score of 114.66. Still, their total of 190.99 gave Davis and White some breathing room.
Having led Virtue and Mohr by 2.56 points after their world-record-setting short program, they knew they would need an outstanding though not perfect skate.
"We were aware that the people in front of us had skated well," said White.
They emerged from a tunnel two minutes into the next-to-last team's performance, Davis in a flowing pink dress with bare midriff, White in his customary all-black.
Both were uncharacteristically stone-faced, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings, including the loud reception the on-ice Russian pair was receiving.
"We really are in kind of our zone," explained White. "The moments before you come out on the ice are really difficult."
White began to stretch and bounce like a boxer in the minutes before the bell for Round 1. The petite Davis practiced a couple of balletic shoulder and hand motions.
Their coach, Marina Zoueva, managed to coax a smile from them. A short while later, they removed their skate guards, tossed them onto the boards and, with a pair of almost simultaneous deep breaths, stepped onto the ice.
The big and boisterous Russian crowd, in a lather since the beautifully artistic performance of Ilinykh and Katsalapov two teams earlier, applauded, but in a subdued, skeptical fashion.
At the first strain of the music from "Scheherazade" by the Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov, the frozen stares melted away and, with the speedy strides that are their signature, Davis and White skated off toward history.
Somewhere close to midway through the graceful and surprisingly athletic program they've been refining for four years, the two locked eyes. Then, as if the last doubt finally had dissipated, briefly smiled.
"We looked at each other and drew support from each other," said White. "Being able to do that for each other for all these years has been a comfort to us both."
Though their free-skate was not quite as stirring as the one that earned them another national title at Boston last month, their score of 116.63 -- the winning total was 196.52 -- set another world record.
Davis and White teamed up when they were 10. Their lengthy partnership in an often volatile sport has now earned them three Olympic medals -- silver in '10, bronze in the team competition at Sochi and now gold.
It was during the team event, when it was clear they were the strongest team in the world, that this American-Canadian rematch lost a little luster.
Their gold medal was the 15th won by America's Olympic figure-skaters, but the first in anything but men's and women's competitions.
The top teams' free skates showcased the athleticism that has found its way into a skating discipline frequently derided as a non-sport.
Following its debut at Montreal in 1976, ice-dance began its path to wider acceptance in 1984 with the perfect "Bolero" routine by Great Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.
In 2010, six years after the sport's new scoring system was implemented, the compulsory and original dances were dropped for a more familiar short program. Ice-dance had found its way into the figure-skating mainstream.
"I think the four people who are sitting here benefitted from the new system," said Mohr. "It's given ice-dance more credibility. It's a lot more of an athletic sport. That's something Charlie and I are extremely proud of."
An even bigger winner on the night might have been Zoueva, who coached both the gold- and silver-medal winners.
"Marina does an incredible job," said Davis. "The two teams have very different styles, approaches and strengths. ... She knows a lot about life and she brings that to the ice with her. When complexities arise between the two teams she does a wonderful job of implementing necessary solutions."
When Zoueva learned seven years ago that these Games would be in her native Russia, she made sure both teams' free-skates were set to music by Russian composers -- Virtue and Mohr skated to "Petite Adagio Waltz Concerto No. 2" by Alexander Glazunov. "I wanted something," she said, "that would touch the Russian people's hearts."
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