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Doing It the Davis Way

16 Feb

Seldom within the sport of speed skating does one find a 6’2, 190 pound colossus gliding across the ice with the speed, dexterity and finesse of an athlete whose lower-to-the-ground stature would provide him with seemingly greater leverage on his skates.  It is even less likely that this colossus would be as brown as Canadian Maple Syrup, yet as spicy and bold as Louisiana Hot Sauce.  If you have an affinity for either however, and follow this exciting winter sport, then you know that such an enigma does in fact, exist.  The specimen Olympian in question is world class speed skater Shani Davis, and he has gone to Vancouver this year with an ax (and two blades) to grind.

The first African-American to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympics (and in a practically all-white sport no less), Davis knows that the title he earned in the 2006 Turin Games makes him a marked man on the ice.  In his eyes though, it also makes him a “big deal”; a veritable force to be reckoned with, and he welcomes the challenge.

“I’m one of a kind…I’m experienced.  I’ve been skating since I was 6 years old. This is my 21st year skating and I’ve really developed a good relationship with my body. I listen to it and I just kind of confide in certain people and I mush together everything. … The past couple of years, it’s worked.”

Some hear his comments and call it conceit.  Shani speaks fearlessly and calls it confidence.  In this line of work and in his current “lone wolf” position though, if he doesn’t believe in himself there is a pretty good chance that no one else will either. 

Davis’ self assurance was most evident during his legendary victories at the 2006 Winter Olympics where he won gold and silver in the 1,000 and 1,500 meter races respectively.  Repping his hometown of Chicago by wearing a White Sox ball cap on his head during his victory lap, it was evident that Davis was intent on displaying not only his superior skill on the ice, but a little bit of his swagger as well.  His happy moments however, were short-lived, when during those same games, Shani declined the offer to compete in a team event, instead choosing to solely focus on his solo races, much to the chagrin of his teammate Chad Hedrick (who later called out Shani’s decision and patriotism in the media) thus beginning a nasty feud between the two.

Not one to be told how to conduct his business, Davis decided that it would be in his best interest to separate himself from the contentiousness of team relations altogether and to instead “go it alone.”  Choosing to train and practice independently of his U.S. Speed Skating counterparts and garnering sponsorships apart from the U.S. Speed Skating Federation, Shani’s audacious stance  of self-reliance has helped him to weed out the distractions and press that much further toward the mark of solo success.

And while it was Davis’ decision to skate away from the fray and find his own winning recipe, I found it more than a little immature and unfortunate that because of this choice, his image and biography were (obviously) excluded from the U.S. Speed Skating’s Media Guide (with the exception of a small note in the records section…seeing as how he is the reigning Olympic and World Champion and all).  I imagine that this was the only way that the institution could “stick it” to Davis for his blatant alienation efforts, but I am betting that the omission will merely serve as fuel to drive Shani to shave 3/10th of a second off of times in the signature races that he is already an overwhelming favorite to win in anyway.

But don’t take my word for it. You can get the details and race times for Shani Davis’ 1,000 meter race tomorrow HERE and his 1,500 meter race on Saturday HERE, as he undoubtedly prepares to create a MAJOR profile or two in Black History this week in Vancouver.

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