Sochi Olympics Preview: Shani Davis Still A Medal Hopeful For Team USA

on January 08 2014 3:38 PM

Shani Davis isn’t ready to slow down just yet.

Davis, considered one of the most accomplished speed skaters to ever compete in the Olympics, has won four Olympic medals, two gold and two silver medals. But next month’s Sochi 2014 Olympics will be Davis’s third and likely final Olympics.

After qualifying for the Sochi Games in last month’s U.S. speed skating trials, Davis, who has earned 84 individual medals in World Cup competition, said he could continue skating in hopes of setting records for most World Cup victories and podiums. He is currently second all-time to legendary U.S. speed skater Dan Jansen.

But the likelihood of the 31-year-old competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in the 2018 Olympics is slim.

“I don’t want to be a guy [who] sticks around just to be sticking around,” Davis told the official Team USA website. “There’s other things in life to do.”

Instead, Davis is even more motivated to end his Olympic career with his best effort in Sochi next month.

“I just simply want to go there, do my best, and if I’m the best man that given day, I’ll be more than happy to take home a gold medal and add to my collection,” Davis said. “If not, I tried my best and that’s the best I can do.”

In 2006, Davis became the first African-American from any country to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the Winter Olympic Games. The Chicago native has won back-to-back gold medals in the 1,000 meters, and he will attempt to become the first athlete to ever win gold in the same event in three straight Olympic Games.

His toughest competition in Sochi will likely come from teammates Brian Hansen and Joey Mantia. At the U.S. trials, Davis won the 1,000-meter qualifier with a time of 1:07.52, just .01 faster than Hansen, while Mantia finished .36 behind Davis.

“I’m happy that I came across the line first. Did you see how close that was?” Davis said with a laugh at the trials, according to teamusa.org. "I’m the older brother to all these young guys. I’m just trying to keep them at bay. They’re nipping at me. They’re taking little pot shots, but it’s all in good fun. It's only going to make us stronger. They're pushing me. I'm pushing them. We're all striving to be the best we can be, and you saw it today.”

Meanwhile, Hansen said he is focusing on making his own mark in Sochi.

“I'm happy for Shani that he's going for such a great achievement, but at the same time, I'm hoping I can put down my best race come Sochi,” Hansen said. “That's the nature of sport.”

Davis calls the 1,500-meter race his “other baby.” At the 2006 Turin Games and the 2010 Vancouver Games, Davis, the current world-record holder in both of those races, was favored to win the 1,500. He came up short by a combined 0.70 seconds to win silver in both races.

“That would be a big dream come true, to be able to win a gold medal in the 1,500,” Davis said, according to the Associated Press. “I love that race so much because when I was a junior skater, the first race I won was the 1,500. Somehow, some way, it evades me at the Olympics. It's all about winning it in February, not so much about winning it now. Hopefully in Sochi, I'll be the best.”

Davis also placed fourth in the 500-meter race at the trials to qualify for Sochi, but he isn’t considered to be a favorite in that event.

Speed skating at the Sochi Games will begin on Feb. 8. 

Nick Forrester contributed to this report.

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