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 to a fifth Olympic Winter Games as he writes for TeamUSA.org.
So, after qualifying for my fifth Olympics, earning a spot in both the 1,500-meter and 1,000-meter, I'm going back to Korea! I was happy to qualify since the competition was very tight. If I skated like I did earlier in the year, there was a great possibility that I wouldn’t qualify for anything and I'd be stuck back home watching others competing and wishing I was them.
Throughout my career I've been to Korea many times, but the most memorable would be when I won my first World Single Distances Championship in the 1,500 way back in 2004. Back then I was the rookie, the young pup on the team, and no one knew of me back then as I was skating mostly short track. Funny thinking back then where I would have ended up now, but I clearly remember the Dutch media really making a big deal of me and of course the American media not having any interest.
They saw something very special in me being a “colored” athlete skating and competing in a predominantly white sport. Also, maybe since back then I traveled around with Shani Jr.; he was a teddy bear that some skate fan gave me after I made my first Olympic team in 2002! This one particular fan was a student who had a Black History Month assignment and since I made history, she did some research and found out about me. We wrote back and forth and eventually became friends and then Shani Jr. was born! He even had his own outfits and I would also like to think that Shani Jr. inspired the Build-A-Bear concept. I mean, he was a pretty fly bear!
Of course, everyone thought it was funny that I went around with him and celebrated with him when I won major skating events, but for me he was a reminder that someone was touched and inspired by me. Through all the negative and lack of support, it motivated me to get stronger and keep pushing. I mean, this lady never saw me skate, she just thought it was cool I qualified for the Olympics! I also love that one of the biggest celebrities out of Chicago also loves bears! Kanye West used bears on like four of his platinum-selling album covers but, of course, no one thought he was soft or childish; of course, it was cool then! Maybe he saw me doing it back then or it’s just that creative minds think alike!?!? Lol who knows...
Also, for the past two summers I've trained in Korea – I even wrote a blog earlier about it. Coming back and being a competing Olympian is very special to me. Since it's not allowed to enter the village before opening of the Olympics, many countries have camps and different ways of preparing for the Games. My American teammates decided to train in Milwaukee, where we had Olympic trials and I was torn of where to prepare for the Games. I love Milwaukee and training there and being so close to Chicago, but I couldn't quite abandon ship on the team that I had been training with for the better part of this season. They decided to cut the time zone in half since Asia is 16 hours ahead of North America and it is only 8 hours ahead of Europe.
We set up shop in Inzell, Germany, and I had a great prep heading into Korea. The first few days were rough, but German mom took great care of me and made my 10-day stay very comfortable. Since I didn't have my computer to play World of Warcraft, or my Xbox to play FIFA, we played lots of cards (idiot is a game we play) and Chinese checkers! She fed me great Bavarian foods and I really enjoyed the stay. The training was amazing and every day I felt more and more like myself; this skating that I've wanted to feel all season was starting to peek its little head out and I took advantage of building myself up again.
Before, when I wrote, I don't know if I believed the words I wrote. I'm realistic in everything that I do and if I don't feel something, it's hard for me to pretend it is there or it will be there just because I want it to be. For example, ‘Maybe my better skating is coming...’ or something to that extent. I know timing is everything, but I felt some really good things and I hope I can continue building up and finding that confidence to go out there without having doubt or fears and just do me, the same way I did back in 2004 and many other times since then. Just pure, thoughtless skating, doing it for the love and skating from my heart and not with my head overcomplicating the process.
I know it's easier said than done, but I couldn't imagine anything cooler than me being ready for these Olympic races. I've been dying to come back to Korea and 10 hours later, writing this as I’m flying from Amsterdam to Seoul, I will be there (so of course you will get a blog because the movie selection isn’t so good, as well as my seat - 46F - but at least it's an aisle seat). Hopefully the person next to me doesn't have to ask me to get up too often (update: only two times).
Prior to the flight, leaving from Amsterdam, I was seeing all these Olympic advertisements and got distracted and confused to which of the two flights going to Seoul I was flying on. I waited in this super long line and when I got up to the front, they scanned my ticket and for some reason it wasn't registering that I was on the flight! Thankfully the flight I was on was the very next neighboring gate.
I was so charged up and nervous that I again didn't pay attention to my correct seat. When the person came to take the window seat – I only like aisles – another guy came up and kind of took my seat! Again, I was wrong, but I could have sworn that was my seat (don't judge me here, I'm sure you guys have done it too), so I was trying to buzz him out and show him and the flight attendant that this dude couldn't read his ticket properly! He pulled out his ticket and he was 42G! I felt he was being rude by the way he blurted to me I was wrong, and I responded to him something like, “Don't be mean about it!!” People make mistakes, so of course he was laughing and I told him not to smile at me!! I couldn't believe this situation I was in lol, but maybe this is that fire my skating has been missing?! If so the skate world better watch out!!