Davis eager to embrace starring role at Olympics

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm •  Published: January 9, 2014
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KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Shani Davis was a star at the last two Olympics.

Only now does he seem comfortable with the role.

As he heads into what could be his final Winter Games, the 31-year-old U.S. speedskater has finally embraced the spotlight and come to terms with the remarkable legacy he'll leave behind no matter what happens in Sochi.

"It's my time," Davis said. "I'm going to try to take advantage of it, share myself and my story with the world as much as I can without it interfering with what I have to do."

Next month, he will attempt to become the first male skater to win the same event at three straight Olympics, having captured gold in the 1,000 meters at both Turin and Vancouver. Also, he's looking to improve on the pair of silver medals he settled for in the 1,500, switching up his training methods with the goal of peaking at just the right time.

Davis' impact goes beyond gold and silver, though. He was the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Games, and he remains one of the few people of color at the oval. Growing up in Chicago, he passed on more traditional sports his friends played for the chance to go really fast with a pair of blades on his feet.

His journey has truly been remarkable, but for the longest time it wasn't one Davis felt at ease sharing beyond his close circle of family and friends. He passed on sponsorship opportunities, turned down the chance to yuk it up on the talk-show circuit, ran hot and cold with the media. To many, he was as known as much for a feud with U.S. teammate Chad Hedrick, a five-time Olympic medalist, as for his impressive feats on the ice.

But it was a different Davis who dominated the recent U.S. speedskating trials in suburban Salt Lake City.

He bantered easily with reporters about his skating, his struggles with an iPad, his 6-year-old son. He played right along when someone asked whether he'd want to appear on "Dancing With The Stars" after the Olympics like his friend, retired short track star Apolo Anton Ohno.

"Hopefully Apolo would want to be my coach," Davis said. "Maybe he can teach me how to dance a little bit, so I won't feel so awkward when people pull me out to dance."

Ohno definitely notices a change in Davis heading into the Sochi Games. He's exposing himself more than ever, from taking a lead role in NBC's pre-Olympic promotional barrage to signing on for a commercial with McDonald's. He's willing to reveal a playful side that Ohno has known about for years, but so many others never got a chance to see.