Is the mirror ball trophy the key to winning Olympic gold?
After 16 years of skating together and a frustrating second-place silver at Vancouver, ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White are hoping ballroom choreography by five-time Dancing with the Stars champ Derek Hough will give them the edge at Sochi.
“We are a totally different team. We’ve really taken it to the next level this year,” says White, 26, partnered with Davis, 27, since they were kids growing up 10 minutes apart in the Michigan suburbs.
The platonic power couple, whose moms still go with them everywhere, delivered a stunning, near-perfect performance at the U.S. nationals to position them as favorites.
“We’re expecting a lot of ourselves,” says Davis. “There’s a lot of pressure from within.”
Longtime fans of Dancing with the Stars, Davis and White contacted Hough through their mutual friend, Olympic gold medal ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi, who won season 6 of the show dancing with Mark Ballas.
“We met and talked music and ideas,” says Hough, who then reviewed YouTube videos of them before choreographing a My Fair Lady-themed routine and working with them first in the studio and then on the ice. “There are some things that you can do on the ice that you can’t do on the floor. I was in awe.”
Hough won’t be able to make the trip to Sochi but will be rooting for them while watching on TV as they try to top their training partners (and close friends) Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Canadians who snatched away gold at Vancouver.
“This is their moment,” he says. “This is where they put all that history and all that relationship into it. This is their fairy tale.”
Read more about Davis and White, plus other stars of Team USA in PEOPLE’s 10-page Olympic preview, on newsstands Friday