olympics

Why You, Personally, Need To Be Rooting For Shani Davis In Sochi

The speedskater has a chance to do something no one else has ever done. Again.

1. This is Shani Davis.

Yuri Kadobnov / Getty

 

Davis was raised by a single mother on the south side of Chicago, where he picked up a pair of skates and started rollerblading by the time he was two, fully immersing himself in ice skating by the time he was six.

2. Children are drawn to him.

Larry French / Getty

The ladies might love “Cool James,” but the kids love Shani Davis. Except for the boy just right of center. He definitely has no clue an Olympic skater is behind him. But the little man just left of center throwing the deuce up is all about Davis’ visit to his school. They’re probably best friends now.

3. Grownups admire his perfect smile.

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Dimitar Dilkoff / Getty

 

Seriously, it’s like I’m watching a toothpaste commercial.

4. (Here’s the smile in action at the White House.)

Brendan Smialowski / Getty

Nice that he’s not too cool for the moment.

5. He is, yes, like the character Frozone from The Incredibles.

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Though Davis is less frequently threatened by lasers.

6. You might remember him from 2006.

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In 2006, Davis became the first black athlete from ANY COUNTRY to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics when he finished first in the 1,000 meters. He also made news when he declined an invitation to skate for the U.S. in the team pursuit, angering another prominent American skater, Chad Hedrick. Read more about that dispute here in an excellent New York Times Magazine article that puts Davis’ decision — and his whole public persona, which sometimes comes across as aloof — in a (mostly) sympathetic context.

7. Or 2010.

Dimitar Dilkoff / Getty

Four years later, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he became the first skater to repeat gold in the 1,000 meters.

8. This could be his last Olympics.

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He’s 32.

9. He’s coming back from an injury.

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Last year Davis injured his groin and missed a lot of crucial races and training, including the speedskating World Cup. After capturing first place at the U.S. speedskating trials in December, he appears to be back to his old self.

10. And he has an opportunity to re-write history, again.

John MacDougall / Getty

If Davis can capture gold in the 1,000 meters, he will be the first male skater to win gold in the same event in three consecutive Winter Games.

11. And folks, that is not all.

Vincenzo Pinto / Getty

If Davis medals in the 1,000-meter and the 1,500-meter, he’ll have six career Olympic medals and will be America’s most decorated male long-track speedskater ever.

Throughout his career, Davis has been a notoriously strong finisher, with his last lap tending to be his quickest. Can he put together his greatest final lap of all in Sochi? YOU’LL HAVE TO TUNE IN TO FIND OUT.

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