Dressed in white, shaded in black against all that snow and ice, Shani Davis looks good again. Without the most recognizable name of Lindsey Vonn in the Sochi Olympics, and with Apolo Ohno’s retirement, the most likely prominent face of the American Winter Olympics presence will be Mr. Shani Davis, Chicago native and repeat world champion. Imagine that—a Black snowman, and a fast one too.
Davis, at 31 years old, returns to his third Olympics (actually fourth—he made the 2002 squad but did not compete) with the chance to really make history. He has already been the first and only African American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics (in 2006). He repeated that gold medal in 2010 in Vancouver in his signature event, the 1,000 meters long track race. This year, he could become the first male athlete in the world, of any ethnic persuasion, to do a three-peat in a Winter Olympics event. He could also become the first American in any Olympics to win three gold medals in subsequent games. And, he could win more gold and/or silver in the other events in which he is entered. In other words, he could become the most storied Winter Olympics athlete in history.
He is so famous already that a superhero character, Frozone from the “Incredibles” movie, was created based on his exploits. He is The Man in speed skating, long and short track. So goes down another Black stereotype—we can’t excel at cold, snowy sports. (Ahh, remember, there are also very prominent Black stars of the National Hockey League.)
Well, where are all those Shani Davis commercials we should be seeing right about now? The face of the American Winter Olympics, eh? And the brother isn’t hard on the eyes. No pock-marked, brutalized face. So c’mon USA corporations, what gives? Do we have to organize a civil rights protest so the brother can have his due? He races for the USA, doesn’t he? Well, duh……
So far, it seems the money people still don’t get it, Black president or not. Davis currently holds three world records in speed skating (1,000 meters, 1500 meters and all-around performance) and is recognized worldwide as one of the most major of stars in the sport. Only, at home, there still seems to be a little reluctance at acknowledging the young man’s greatness. Eric Heiden is still the Babe Ruth of USA Winter Olympic speed skating, with five gold medals in the 1980 Olympics.
Davis is the first and only USA speed skater to compete in both the short and long-track races and medal in them in one tournament, winning bronze in short-track and gold in the all-around (in 2004 and again, in 2005). Heiden won three all-arounds and four sprint championships in his career, and Davis now has two all-around championships and one sprint gold.
Heiden broke 10 world records in his day and tied another one with all now broken; Davis set nine world records, with three still standing,
Davis is in Sochi with his Hank Aaron bat. Another gold medal win in the 1,000 meters and there will be no doubt who is the greatest American speed skater ever. There will be just one.
Snow fly, young man. Snow fly.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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