Free-spirit Davis eyes more glory

Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:01pm EST
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By Patrick Johnston

(Reuters) - Shani Davis' mother wanted her young son to pursue roller dance, while guards at the Chicago ice rink he frequented just wished he would slow down. A myriad of medals in a glorious decade of elite speed skating prove emphatically the American was right to do neither.

The 31-year-old Davis, the first black athlete to win an individual Winter Olympic gold, heads to Sochi in February with more records in his sights as if to hammer home the point.

Olympic 1,000 meters champion in Turin and Vancouver, Davis could become the first American to win the same event at three consecutive Games.

He is also entered in the 1,500m and two medals in Russia will make him America's most decorated male long-track speed skater.

"I first went roller skating at one of the many Chicago rinks. Mum thought I'd like roller dance but I just wanted to go fast, even then," Davis told Reuters in an interview.

"My speed got me in trouble sometimes with the rink guards, and someone who my mum worked for suggested I might like speed skating."

Thankfully mum listened, the guards relented and he now boasts 10 world championship titles, has set nine world records and proven a strong role model for black youths in south Chicago, where he grew up, and the rest of the world.

"I do appreciate how much my success - especially that first gold medal - means to a great many people around the world more because of my skin color," he said.   Continued...

Shani Davis (R) of the U.S. reacts after the men's 1,000m event at the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Nagano, central Japan, January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato