Team USA had spent the first eight days of the 2014 Sochi Games desperately searching for its face of this year's Winter Olympics. The biggest names heading into Russia -- Lindsey Vonn, Evan Lysacek, Julia Mancuso, Bode Miller and Shani Davis -- had all either dropped out of their events prior to the Games or failed to win gold.

Who'd be this year's Sarah Hughes? The Apolo Ohno? The Picabo Street?

The early whispers of "So, what's happening here?" were growing into audible groans among the American fans in Sochi (and I'd certainly imagine the broadcast partners at NBC) as big name after big name failed to win gold. Slopestyle and snowboarding aside, the slate was relatively blank, and as a few days stretched into a full week, it was fair to wonder whether there even would be an emerging American star from this year's Winter Games.

Then came Meryl and Charlie in the ice dancing competition.

Graceful, consistent and absolutely dominant. Gold, at last.

On Monday night, Meryl Davis and Charlie White did what the rest of the U.S. gold medal hopefuls could not. They delivered. The world's top ice dancing pair and an undefeated team for the past two years, Davis and White skated flawlessly. Earning a score of 116, they bested their longtime Canadian rivals and defending Olympic gold medal winners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned silver.

"We're so excited we're kind of in shock a little," Davis said. "I'm not sure what we're feeling. It kind of all came together for us and we're so pleased to be here. We're kind of in disbelief."

Hyped as a gold medal favorites heading into these Olympics, Davis and White exceeded even the highest of expectations. During Sunday's short program, they notched a world record-breaking 78.89 score, dancing to the music of "My Fair Lady" with precision, speed and unbridled joy. On Monday, they bested even their own highest hopes, skating to "Scheherazade" in the free dance, competing last and leaving the Iceberg in awe.

 

 

"The crowd was really alive out there today for all the teams and we fed off the energy," White said. "We were well prepared by our coach Marina (Zueva) in coming here and doing our job."

Skating together 17 years as a team, Davis and White have known each other the bulk of their lives. They're more than just royalty on ice. They're everything we want our athletic heroes to be. Both are enrolled at the University of Michigan.

White is interested in political science, plays the violin and had a hockey career before all this. He spent his childhood Saturdays in Michigan's Big House watching Desmond Howard, Tom Brady and Anthony "A-Train" Davis with his father. He reads FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi's baseball columns and walks his dog around Ann Arbor, going unnoticed, every morning.

Davis, meanwhile, wants to pursue avenues outside of figure skating when she hangs up the skates. Though older than the rest of the students in the sorority house, she's in Delta Delta Delta and is an active sister in the organization's philanthropic efforts. Davis and White are friends, and they openly joke about being able to finish each other's sentences. This wasn't a four-year quest or an eight-year battle. This was nearly two decades in the making.

In a scrambled effort to find the anointed American "faces" of these Winter Games, Davis and White were there all along. Waiting, watching and ready to take the world by storm. And when their names were called the past two nights, they more than delivered.

The first American ice dancing pair to win gold, Davis and White have earned the accolades, the attention and their place on whichever cereal box or late night talk show couch they end up on over the next few weeks. Both on the ice and off, they're the real deal.

While many of the other US Olympic "favorites" have stumbled, fallen or were simply unable to make the trip, Meryl Davis and Charlie White showed up and knocked it out of the park.

Almost immediately after their free skate performance, talk of retirement rippled through the Iceberg Arena. If this is the last we ever see of the world's best ice dancing pair, they certainly went out on top.

And the 2014 Sochi Olympics will always be known as theirs.

"I felt like we had done everything we could from the beginning of this competition, in practice, team event, this event," White said. "And 17 years of hard work was justified. To come away with a gold medal is amazing."