Winter Olympics 2014: 10 Interesting Facts About Shani Davis

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10 Facts About Olympic Speedskater Shani Davis

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Shani Davis is a U.S. speedskater and two-time Olympic gold medalist. The 31-year-old will compete in Sochi in at least the 1000m and 1500m events in what will likely be his last Olympics. In the 1000m, he will attempt to become the first man to ever win three straight Olympic gold medals in any winter event. He is also the reigning world-record holder in the 1000m and 1500m, having posted times of 1:06.42 and 1:41.04, respectively.

Davis is widely considered to be one of speedskating’s most accomplished Olympians. In addition to his two gold medals, he also touts two silvers. He has won 84 individual medals in World Cup competition, making him second in wins all time.

At age 22, Davis won a third consecutive U.S. All-Around Championship. He became the first U.S. speedskater to make all three World Teams in the same season (World Sprint, World All-Around and World Short Track).

In 2009, he won the World Sprint Championships, making him just the second male skater in history to win both the Sprint and All-Around competitions. He has won five World Cup 1000m titles and four World Cup 1500m titles.

Davis’ time hasn’t been without controversy, and he has had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the media. In December 2001, his competitors Apolo Ohno and Rusty Smith were accused of conspiring to intentionally alter an Olympic qualifying race so that Davis could make the team. They were ultimately cleared of any wrong-doing, but nonetheless, despite qualifying, Davis did not compete in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

There are certainly a lot of interesting facts about this Olympian, but here are 10 more that you might not know.

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Inspired Youth Development Program in Washington, D.C.

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Davis inspired the creation of the Inner City Excellence (ICE) program in Washington, D.C. The skating-focused youth development program serves hundreds of D.C. area children per year, and Davis remains supportive of the program.

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First Black Athlete to Win Individual Winter Olympic Event

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In Turin, Italy in 2006, Davis became the first black athlete from any nation to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the Olympic Winter Games (speedskating 1000m).

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First Repeat Gold Medalist in 1000m

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Davis became the first man to repeat as a 1000m speedskating Olympic gold medalist in 2010 when he won again in Vancouver, BC.

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From Chicago, IL

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The Olympian hails from the Windy City. When asked about his comfort food in an interview with Wayne Drehs from ESPN, Davis said, “Man, I’m a Chicagoan. Chicago pizza. The best pizza is from Chicago; it’s the best in the world.”

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Career Began at Age 2

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Davis started roller skating at age 2, but switched to speedskating when he was 6 years old. His mother worked for a lawyer whose son was a competitive speedskater. At the lawyer’s suggestion, she had her son join the Evanston Speedskating Club in Evanston, IL.

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Name Means “Light” and “Weight”

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Davis’ father Reginald Shuck reportedly picked his name out of a Swahili dictionary. In English, “Shani” translates loosely to a combination of “light” and “weight”.

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May Have Inspired a Movie Character

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This is more rumor than fact, but Frozone, a superhero from The Incredibles, is allegedly based off Shani Davis. He certainly looks an awful lot like him.

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First to Make Long and Short Track Junior World Teams

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At age 17, Davis became the first male U.S. speedskater to make the long and short track Junior World Teams and then made the All-around, Sprint, and Short Track teams another year. His top accolade was that he was the first skater to medal at all three events in 2005.

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Tall for a Speedskater

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Davis stands at 6-foot-2, which is tall for someone in his profession. This was especially true when he competed in short track as those skaters are usually shorter, creating a lower center of gravity during competition.

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Rocky Relationship with US Speedskating

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In 2006, Davis was part of a controversy involving the team pursuit event. There was confusion as to whether Davis chose not to compete in the team event or whether he was simply ineligible due to the fact he only qualified in the individual races. He faced criticism in the media for allegedly electing to focus on individual gain rather than on the team. Davis felt that US Speedskating was not supportive during the controversy, and he has had a rocky relationship with the federation ever since. He did, however, tell Drehs of ESPN, “I’m not hung up on some of the things I was hung up on a few years ago with my organization.”

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