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SHANI DAVIS: The Winning Streak

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Sport Speed Skating
Birthdate August 13, 1982
Birthplace Chicago, IL
Hometown Chicago, IL
Residence Alberta, Calgary
HT./WT. 6'2"
Olympics 2002

Shani Davis of Chicago won speed skating's 2005 world allround title.

Shani Davis was only 20 years old when he became the first African American to make it into the U.S. Men's Olympic short track team, although he wasn't able to participate in the games in Salt Lake. Davis revealed he wasn't physically prepared at that time to take on the challenge of competing for the Olympics. But in 2004 he was able to bounce back into the track when he won first at the Men's 1500m at the World Single Distance Championships and taking second behind his teammate, Chad Hedrick, at the World Allround Championships. In 2005, he set a world record in becoming the first African American to win the World Allround title in the Men's 1500m, and taking home the silver in both 1000m events at the World Sprint Championships. However, Davis chose not to defend his World Single Distance title in 2005, but rather went on to compete at the World Short Track Championships where he won a bronze in the Men's Relay for the U.S. team.

Too Dangerous for the Rink

Davis grew up in Chicago in a predominantly black neighborhood near Hyde Park. He went to an all-Black school and during an interview he said it was highly unlikely that he'd become interested in speed skating as a sport. But he did admit a love for skating when he was a child.

He was only 2 1/2 when his mother, Cherie, began bringing him to the old Rainbow Roller Rink to keep his active behavior in check. Shani loved going really, really fast on skates. The reason for his speeding on the rink was that his mom used to promise him he could play video games if he skated. He never really cared about doing the dancing that his mom wanted him to do. The guards at the rink used to say, "Man, that kid's dangerous! Get him outta here!" They were concerned he'd hurt someone or himself eventually. And then someone recommended speed skating when Davis was three or four years old.


NBCOlympics.com - Athletes - Shani Davis

Early Start

His speed skating training did not begin until Davis was 6 years old. Back then his mom, Cherie, was working as a legal assistant at Benjamin and Shapiro for long-time speed skating official, Fred Benjamin, whose son was an Olympic hopeful and who also recommended speed skating for the precocious six-year-old Shani Davis.

So Shani's mom enrolled him into skating lessons at the Evanston Speed Skating Club, where he trained under an African American teacher and he skated with a diverse group of students. It wasn't until Davis moved to Lake Placid at 16 to train in the development program that he felt like a minority in his sport.

"That was the biggest culture shock of my life, going to Lake Placid," Shani was quoted as saying. "I was used to living around a lot of diversity and having a big black community in Chicago and Milwaukee."

Cherie Davis made sure the color of Shani's skin didn't prohibit his enjoyment of the sport.

"I didn't teach that since you're black you have to act nice and pretend like you're a fly on the wall. I didn't do that," Cherie Davis said. "I told him, you have just as much fun as everybody else, and he did."


Shani Davis: Breaking records

By Mary Motzko, NBCOlympics.com

Lonely Years

Shani recalled the ribbing hed get from friends because of his sport. They didnt understand why hed choose to idolize speed skating champion, Bonnie Blair, over the basketball icon, Michael Jordan. He used to wear this white Bonne Blair sweatshirt when its cold, and his friends would ask him, What you doing with that white girls face on your shirt, man? The guys though speed skating was a sissy sport, so Shani didnt talk much about what he did then.


Read NBC Online article on Shani Davis - Davis Bio at NBC Olympics

Olympic Dreams

It was at Lake Placid that Shani Davis made it his goal to make it in the Olympic team someday. Eventually he left Lake Placid after a year, and then he moved to Marquette, Michigan for more development programs.� In 1999, he became the first skater to make it into the U.S. short track and long track Junior World Championship teams, a feat which Davis also accomplished in 2000, 2001 and 2002. In 2004 and 2005 he made the Senior-Level U.S. short track and long track World Championship teams.

Because there isn't a long track at the Colorado Springs training grounds for the US short track team, Shani Davis was unable to train well, so he moved again in 2001 to Calgary, Canada, where he skated under the tutelage of former world champion Derrick Campbell.

What's in a name?

Davis' father, Reginald Shuck, chose his son's name from a Swahili dictionary. The skater says his name means a combination of "light" and "weight."

Historical achievement

Recently, Shani Davis has earned a silver 2004) and a gold (2005) at Speed Skating World Allround Championships and also has been setting a world record in the long-track 1500m.

At the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics, Shani Davis is making history by becoming the first African-American to make the U.S. Olympic speed skating team.

As the world-record holder in the 1000m, he made history again when he won the event on Day 8 to capture his first Olympic medal and become the first African-American man to capture an individual gold at the Winter Olympic Games. He topped his countryman Joey Cheek and the Dutchman Erben Wennemars for the win. Shani Davis also earned a second medal, silver, after finishing behind Italy's Enrico Fabris in the men's 1500m on Day 11.

Diversity at Torino

Shani Davis, Vonetta Flowers, Jean Prahm, Apolo Ohno, and others are leading a most diverse pool of athletic talent the US team ever assembled for the 2006 Winter Olympics at Turin, Italy. Incidentally, this diversity has drawn many reactions from various commentators.

In an article entitled Olympic talent is color blind

which served as a response to a comment by HBO Real Sports commentator, Bryant Gumbel, NBC news correspondent Kevin Coke rebuked the formers insinuation that being Black automatically presupposes excellence in the athletic field. This seems like a reverse discrimination wherein the color of ones skin could put an athlete into a category of either best or mediocre. To Kevins point of view, it is time that we all should move beyond the idea that color has something to do with talent.

Other Resources:

NBCOlympics.com Videos at www.nbcolympics.com

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