MILWAUKEE — With two world championships, a pair of Olympic medals and a host of World Cup victories and rink records, Shani Davis has proved he’s one of the best all-round speedskaters in the world.
Now, he wants to show the world he’s an all-around good guy, too.
Davis should have been one of the U.S. Olympic team’s shining stars at the 2006 Turin Games, where he won gold in the 1,000 meters and silver in the 1,500. As the first African-American to medal in long-track speedskating, he should have been celebrated for his achievements.
Instead, Davis is perhaps best remembered for verbally sparring with U.S. teammate Chad Hedrick, for being sullen and testy with the media and for an awkward nationally televised interview on NBC.
With the 2010 Vancouver Games fast approaching, Davis is cognizant of his image and wants to leave a better impression this time around.
“It’s important for me,” said Davis, a Chicago native who lives in Milwaukee and trains at the Pettit National Ice Center. “At the end of the day, people remember you by your Olympic performances. This is my third Olympics. I really want to make a long-lasting good impression.”
Anyone who has watched Davis at the rink through the years knows he’s friendly and charming with fans, especially children. Though he doesn’t train with the national team in Salt Lake City, he’s genuinely admired by many skaters and respected by all.
So what happened in 2006?
Some of his problems were of his own doing, but in fairness, some things were blown out of proportion by media.
At the Turin Games, Davis declined US Speedskating’s request for him to skate in the team pursuit, a new Olympic event. Davis had valid reasons. He had trained for his individual races his entire life and the team pursuit was thrown at him at the 11th hour.
When Hedrick said in news conferences that he was honored to be asked to skate the team pursuit and considered it his patriotic duty, he subtly painted Davis as unpatriotic.
Their war of words escalated throughout the Games.Hedrick was portrayed as the hero, even though he had an ulterior motive for wanting Davis to skate in the team pursuit: He knew the U.S. could not win a medal without Davis.
Meanwhile, a defiant Davis walked out of one post-race news conference, and his NBC interview was almost painful to watch.
“That’s all behind us now,” Davis said. “I’m trying to move forward. As human beings, we do the best we can.”
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