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Speed skating: Shani Davis strives for gold in both the 1,000, 1,500

Shani Davis smiles after competing in the men's 1,500 meters during the U.S. Olympic speedskating trials Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Kearns, Utah. Davis won the event. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)  ORG XMIT: UTRB132
Shani Davis competes in the men's 1,500 meters, which he won, during the U.S. Olympic speedskating trials Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) ORG XMIT: UTRB117

KEARNS, Utah — Shani Davis is healthy, happy and skating fast.

That could translate into another medal haul at the Winter Olympic Games.

Davis, a long-track speed skater who grew up training with the Evanston Speed Skating Club, already has won four Olympic medals: back-to-back gold in the 1,000 meters and back-to-back silver in the 1,500. He holds the world records at both distances.

Next month in Sochi, Russia, Davis will try to become the first American male to win the same event in three different — and consecutive — Winter Games. And he’ll try to win gold for the first time in the 1,500, a race that eluded him in 2006 (Turin) and 2010 (Vancouver).

He won both races at the U.S. Olympic trials last week, edging Glenview’s Brian Hansen by 0.01 of a second in the 1,000 and by 0.50 in the 1,500.

“Those are my babies,” Davis said. “I would love to win gold in both but if it’s not meant for me, it’s just not meant for me. But I’ll do everything in my power to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities.”

The 31-year-old Davis had what was, for him, an uncharacteristically poor season in 2012-13 after suffering a groin injury. But he looked like his old dominant self at the Olympic trials, also qualifying in the 500 meters, a race in which he would be a long shot to win a medal.

“I’m in a really good position,” he said. “I’m really happy with my training. I’m really happy I’m not injured. Hopefully, it stays that way leading to the Olympics. Last year was a really tough season for me but I bounced back from it.

“I’m just counting the days. I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

Davis said he probably would add the team pursuit to his Olympic schedule for the first time. If he does, the Americans would be considered a medal contender in that race, too.

Davis seems much more at ease these days in the spotlight, dealing with sponsors and media obligations and his position as an admired and respected team leader.

“I really accept the role that I have now,” he said. “I embrace it. I’m happy and proud that I’m in the position I’m in because a few years ago I wasn’t. Here I am now, I’m doing better than ever skating-wise, media-wise, teammate-wise. Everything is positive. And I am so happy things are positive.”

Davis made the 2002 Olympic team as an alternate in short track but did not compete. The Sochi Games will be his third as a long-track athlete and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t still be a force in 2018. But he’s not looking that far into the future.

“I’m just not sure,” he said of sticking around for another four-year Olympic cycle. “I’m going to take it one step at a time. If I still have that competitive drive and the determination to do the training for skating I would love to continue.

“But I don’t want to be a guy who sticks around just to be sticking around. There’s other things in life to do.”

Right now, he’s focused on one goal: winning medals in Sochi.

“I’m having a lot of fun out there,” Davis said. “I love the competition. I love that I have to be on my ‘A’ game 100 percent of the time skating against these guys that are my teammates, because if I don’t show up they will. And I want to be the guy on top of the podium.”

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