Shani Davis is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of long track speedskating. He has won four Olympic medals – back-to-back golds in the 1,000-meter and back-to-back silvers in the 1,500 in 2006 and 2010 – in addition to 30 world championship medals. With more than 100 world cup medals to his name, he is also the all-time leader in world cup points. Follow Davis on his journey at his fifth Olympic Winter Games as he writes for TeamUSA.org.
Last time we left off, I was heading over to the Olympics via Amsterdam. Of course you guys got a blog because the flight was long and I had time, and I was very eager to give you guys a blog during the Olympics, but my tablet broke and I couldn’t write as easily as I would have liked, so my apologies. That device lived for five years!! The arrival to Incheon was finally here, and they had the airport set up so the competing athletes and staff could breeze through customs and immigration. It was literally life in the fast lane, the way I like it – I just wish every time that I traveled I had this luxury because that line was super long, never have I seen the Incheon airport that crowded!
I got my bags and was greeted by staff and volunteers helping me gather my luggage and welcoming all the arriving athletes. After we finished we were on our way to the hotel where I had friends waiting. I was super excited to see them since I hadn’t seen them since I left Korea over the summer. After a mandatory meeting, I met up with coach Jimmy and we had some Korean dinner and caught up on what he’s been up to and vice versa.
The next day we went through team processing where we get all the Olympic gear and swag!! This is probably my favorite thing since it’s once every four years and we get exclusive clothes that only Olympians and Paralympians get. The clothes from Ralph Lauren and Nike were super cool; never have I cared about how certain things fit, as I would normally be the first one in and out. I mean, I was hip-hop – still am – but I guess I grew out of the XXL look! I do not care for the medium look either, but Ralph changed my mind when it came to clothes fitting. Four years back, when I was personally sponsored by them, they invited me to their flagship in Beverly Hills and I thought I was fly, rocking my XXL clothes hanging off my body, and I will never forget the look one of the stylist gave me! It was like a look of disapproval, but in a kind, professional way! Well she was here during processing and we joked about that time, and let’s just say some large clothes turned into medium large I would say – she was very persuasive and helpful. Having their attention anytime would be special, but for this occasion I made sure to try on everything twice!! I mean, ‘When in Rome,’ right!!
Finally, we were finished and on our way back. The bus ride was three hours long, but the time flew because we were all together on the bus, short track and long trackers joking and having a good time playing cards. It always nice having everyone around, and we don’t get to kick it normally because of our different schedules. It was super nice catching up with them and talking about the season and other things. We were super united and this is so special because we never had this type of unity before; we were all there to compete against the world, we made it through trials and other competitions, and now we were finally here!
We got to the village and we got assigned our rooms. I was happy how they roomed us. It wasn’t sport-specific like it was in the past. I was with short trackers and I enjoyed it! After we settled in, we explored and went to the cafeteria! Everyone wanted McDonald’s and I did too, but I promised myself after races I would have some good fast food. We also had another choice in eating at our own country’s cafeteria! The United States Olympic Committee had set it up and brought over some staff from America that a lot of us were familiar with – I mean the legendary Flower was there cooking for us!
I’ve known her since I was 17 living in Colorado, and I was shocked she was there. Her food was amazing! She always reminds me of the time long ago when she was super busy and didn’t have a break all day and how I went up to her and saw that she was tired, and I closed the grill early for her. Ever since, we’ve been tight so she would always make sure I was taken care of! Our sports nutritionist was also with us and she had a killer setup for us as well. We could go to her room and she would cook breakfast, pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, shakes, you name it. It was greatly appreciated!!
Our venue was finally finished and the ice was great! Super-fast ice and I was feeling good to go! I was skating the best I’ve skated in years and every day I kept improving. I would share my skating film with my coaches from short track and they were super pumped about how I was skating! Everything was finally coming together. My confidence was coming back and those demons that I faced all season, those fears and doubts were slowly being replaced with beliefs and good, positive thoughts. My mind was empty, my heart was full of courage, all that passion that carried me to this point was there again. I didn’t care about anything except racing and enjoying the moment. I was ready!! Since we didn’t compete right away, my race schedule was middle and end of the Olympics. I had to channel these feelings and emotions so I had it when it counted, the 13th and the 23rd of February!
To keep myself busy I indulged myself with pin trading, card playing with my roommates and others, and going everywhere I could go on my electric scooter!! That scooter saved me a lot of walking, being off my feet so I could put everything into my races. At the end of the Olympics I saw it had over 90 kilometers!! I didn’t even get hurt riding that beast, it could go up to 30 kph! Others on my team got scooters as well, but I made sure mine was faster!! A few dollars more I paid, but it was well worth it.
The 1,500-meter race came and I felt good, I didn’t have fear or doubts and the things I wanted to do in the race I was able to. I had a decent start, but mentally I hit the wall in transitioning from 300m into 700m, the first lap! Way back when it was something I didn’t have to think about, it was automatic; now I had to manually do it, try to squeeze it out and for the past two or three years I’ve struggled with it. I fought and my results weren’t the best, but I didn’t care because this was the first time in a long time I didn’t have the parking break on and I simply went to the line and skated to the best of my abilities.
It felt good having the first race done and having the time to prepare myself for the 1,000-meter. Since I was a more current world champion in that distance and mentally I knew I could push through it more so than the 1,500, I was ready! All season I trained more so for this race and working on my opener and overall top speed. The last lap we figured would be there because it was all season, and just not the opener. Well, to my surprise, when the race came it was the other way around. My first 600m was hot, almost into medal contention and then that last 400m hit me harder than I ever remember it hitting me. My pair was lined up in my sights, set up for a good chase down that backstretch going into the inner lane for the last corner. I dug deep and fought with everything I had, but I couldn’t catch him. I was happy with the effort and the quality of the race. I wish it could have been a bit more but I was empty. Twenty years of training and skating at the highest levels. Accomplishing everything during this time and now being here seeing these younger athletes winning and accomplishing their dreams and goals, I mean full circle; when I was their age I did the same. I beat up on everyone and now they were doing it to me. I had a newfound appreciation for what I accomplished and I found out why I was doing it; in my bones I had a love for skating and regardless of anything else, I was living my dream. I have been for the past 20 years, being a five-time Olympian, surviving the sport and how it evolved, I was still here, a fighter to the end.
I know you guys are thinking there’s more to this story or blog but I wanted to keep it sweet.
There is of course more, but for another time. Enjoy this one… and I will have another blog up shortly. I will miss writing from my perspective and sharing my life, just know that I’m happy you guys care enough to read my words and you inspire me to write something from the heart. I always think about what I’ve done and how to best phrase it for you. Enjoy 😊