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.
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After a very disappointing world cup qualifier, the first of many important steps of the Olympic season, I was on my way to Europe for redemption. I was so eager to see how I measured up against my countrymen after having a very successful summer training program in Korea. I left Korea extremely fit, leaner than I've ever been and also skating some of the best short track I've skated in years, maybe since I skated competitively years ago. What is a story without many bumps along the way, without glitches in the matrix?
I did have an injury, a very bad back from all the dryland and training short track with the grammar schoolers and high schoolers – and of course a lack of recovery and treatment – but I did all I could with what I had, the same way I've always done, except Father Time was a bit more forgiving back then than he is today!! Regardless, I qualified for the world cup team, but it wasn't the way I would have liked to.
I decided to head over to Holland a lot earlier than normal for the first world cup of the season. I will never complain about going to Holland early, as I love being in Heerenveen and a few extra days will not only give me more time to acclimate to the seven-hour time change and the ice conditions, but it would give me more time to be with my friends and family here in this area. After an eight-hour flight, three or four really bad movies, not-so-good inflight meals and not-so-friendly seating for my long legs, I landed in Holland.
Again, like past seasons I would have to work my way out of the lower groups and slowly rank up so I could compete against the elite in the world. Everyone in the world is skating extremely fast and I'm witnessing skating from the younger skaters dreaming of the days when I was doing the same: skating fast, and taking names!! I knew somewhere along the way I would have to wake up and stop dreaming and make it happen for myself. I slowly moved up the ranks, but I still didn't have any breakout performances during the races in Holland and Norway. Before I knew it, the skating events had come and gone. I felt my skating was okay, nothing special, but I tried my best and at the end of the day I'm thankful that I have time to correct certain mistakes or strengthen any weaknesses that were highlighted from the event, which I've been working very hard at since and make big improvements!!
Maybe I'm saving those breakout races for a later time? Possibly the Olympics? Then again, at this point I still had to qualify for the Olympic team, and I don't like counting my chickens before the eggs hatch, and I also don't like underestimating anyone that I skate against. I have never been in this position before, being on the ropes, not quite up to par. I hate the feeling because it's not like I slacked off and didn't put in the work. I fought hard and really felt up for the challenge ahead. I'm not discouraged seeing track records and world records broken, even one of my own, my 1,500-meter baby that stood for almost 10 years!! This topic will be talked about later in greater detail.
Check TeamUSA.org again soon to hear stories, memories and reflections of Europe that I know you guys will enjoy!