Before 2008, it would have been a rare occurrence to find Black families cuddling before their televisions to watch the Winter Olympics. But many tuned into the 2010 Vancouver games and mostly for one reason—Shani Davis.
The 27-year-old Texas native became the first African American to win a Winter Olympic gold medal during the 2008 Games, and this year many fans were hoping to see him repeat.
“I love ice-skating, but I didn’t get into it until I saw Shani win the gold two years ago,” said Chal’e Fentress, a local college student. “I hope he wins, again. I’ll probably be at the skating rink the next day.”
Fentress is probably circling the ice right now, because Davis delivered on fans’ expectations, claiming gold in the 1,000-meter race on Feb. 17 with a time of 1:08.94 seconds. He barely beat out South Korea’s Mo Tae-bum, who finished 18-hundreths of a second behind Shani for the silver medal. American teammate Chad Hendrick claimed bronze with a time of 1:09.32.
“Those last 200, 300 meters were very difficult,” Davis told the media following the race. “I was just trying to carry my speed. I could feel it leaving me. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, just as long as you get across the line as quick as you could.”
Davis was expected to race in the 500-meter race earlier in the week, but he decided to sit the competition out due to a combination of ice delays and his desire to rest for the 1,000 meter race, the same race he earned gold in two years ago. But Davis knew he would need to bring his best performance if he was to repeat.
“When you’re a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get this little thing on your back called a target,” said Davis, now the first male skater to win two gold medals in the 1,000. “To go out there and win this race twice is truly amazing.”
The last time Davis won gold, his success was overshadowed by a dispute between fellow teammate Hendrick.
According to various reports, Hendrick was upset at the time because Davis only wanted to compete in individual races, which may have hurt the Americans’ chances of winning relay competitions. Davis was upset at Hendrick because he apparently didn’t shake his hand after he won the ’08 gold. But Hendricks told the media they’ve resolved their differences and are happy to be teammates.
“Everything that Shani and I had in 2006 is behind us now,” Hedrick told reporters in Vancouver. “We’re here. We’re proud to represent our country. We’re proud to put a few more medals on the table of the Americans.”
Davis said the energy is so much more positive now, which makes winning more fun.
“I’ve learned not to pay attention to things that are negative and focus on the things that matter,” Davis told the media. “For the most part, it’s been really good. It’s a different type of energy now. People want me to win.”