He is the tallest Speed Skater in the U.S, but Shani Davis is also the first black male athlete to win gold in the Winter Olympics and second male athlete to win the Allaround and Sprint Championship, his presence is so impressive that even a famous cartoon character in a Pixar film was designed in his honor, Do you remember Frozone of The Incredibles? Continue reading to know all about Shani, his life, the "Jerk" incident plus video and photos below.
Shani was born on August 13, 1982, his passion for skating started when he was just three years old, his mother worked with a speed skater official, that after watching Shani seeing at that time six-year, proposed Shani’s Mom to start a professional training for Shani. And so it was how Shani began in the Evanston Speed Skating Club where he started shortly winning multiple titles and recognition.
And did you know that Shani’s father chose his name from a Swahili Dictionary (Second language used in the East Africa Coast) and meaning "weight" and "light"? Pretty cool, don’t you think?
Shani graduated from Marquette Senior High School in Michigan where he moved to improve his skating.
Shani achieved great things in short (his height of 6”1 helped him) and long track and in 2000, when he became the first American skater to win both junior teams (short & Long). Achieving the same two years in a row.
Shani Davis wanted a place at the 2002 Olympic Games in Utah, peers Apolo Ohno and Rusty Smith already had a place in the competitions and although no one believed Shani could win, he showed them how wrong they were, when he finished first in the competition, his team mates Ohno Smith end up second and third, this victory gave Shani a place in the Olympics and the title as the first African American man on the team, but the problem was that both Ohno and Smith are good friends; Ohno is actually his best friend and rumors began telling how Ohno and Smith had left Shani to win, in order to have his place in the team, lengthy investigations were done and eventually suspicions were rejected.
Shani did not participate in the Winter Olympics of 2002 instead of this, he participated in the junior Olympic games in Italy where he won two tournaments, becoming the first American skater to win three consecutive years. The following year in 2003 Shani moved to Calgary, Canada to train by the hand of Derrick Campbell.
That same year Shani quit competing in the junior tournaments and debut in the men’s competitions, that’s how in February he won his first title of Men Long track skaters plus earn a place in the Gotenburg Olympic games, and remained in 16th place in the world rankings.
Full of confidence Shani participated in 2004 in 2004 World Allaround Long Track Championships in Hamar, Norway and the Men’s World Single Distance Championships in Seoul where he won both competitions, and end up second in the Rankings.
He carried that same confidence in 2005 best known as “breaking World Records year” for Shani, since he broke 3 that year.
2006 was a difficult year for Shani, although he had never skated in the team pursuit, the U.S. speed skating committee announced their interest in Shani, For his part, Shani didn’t have the kind of training in pursuit team, so he expressed his interest in participating in 1000m, 1500m, and 2000. But although the committee had already selected the team pursuit he was appointed without his consent as substitute for the pursuit team. Given the case that there was not one incident with the 5 selected in the team pursuit, Shani was not called to participate. But the media said Shani was unpatriotic and a bad athlete, for letting the pursuit team down while the committee of speed skating remained silent, leaving Shani to defend himself, where he explained that he was not eligible to participate with team pursuit and that was for the best so it will give skaters the opportunity to participate since they did had the required training for this competition, but at no time he said it was the committee that elected him without his permission. The only one that defended Shani was the long track coach at that time who said that Shani had never even been in the team pursuit.
Meanwhile Shani competed in three of five competitions at the 2006 Winter Olympics where he won in the 1000m and the 1000m overall, finishing fourth in the world ranking. In March defended his Allaround World Championship where he broke the record scored by Chad Hedrick and then would break his own.
In 2007 won in the 1000m at the World Sprint Championships in Hamar and won the third place in the rankings, he also won in 1000m, 1500m and the following year at the World Distance Championships in Salt Lake.
The next year he won overall 1000 and 1500m in Japan, in 2009 broke the record in Canada and Moscow, he was the first athlete to win both titles.
This December Shani called Stephen Colbert a "Jerk"; Colbert is the sponsor of the American Speed skating Team which despite his comment Shani is still a member. The reason to tell him a "Jerk" was due the comment made by Stephen on his show at Comedy Central “The Colbert Report” where he made fun of Canadians and called them "Sasketchewhiners. Let’s hope Stephen’s sense of humor is as good as people think it is, so he will take Shani’s comments as an unoffensive joke
Shani hopes to continue studying at Michigan and become a Science Professor, and we wish you all the best in your studies and your fantastic Speed Skater career.
Do not forget to see photos of Shani and Video below.
Shani Davis Video
Photo credit: Martin DeJong