Shani Davis

Shani Davis

Shani Davis at the World Cup in Thialf in 2006
Personal information
Born (1982-08-13) August 13, 1982
Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater Northern Michigan University
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight 84 kg (185 lb; 13.2 st)
Country United States
Sport Speed skating

Shani Davis (/ˈʃɑːni/; born August 13, 1982) is an Olympic Champion speed skater from the United States.[1]

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Davis became the first black athlete to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the Olympic Winter Games, winning the speedskating 1000 meter event. He also won a silver medal in the 1500 meter event. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, he duplicated the feat, becoming the first man to successfully defend the 1000 meter gold medal, and repeating as 1500 meter silver medalist.

Davis won the all-around World Allround Championships in both 2005 and 2006, after winning the silver medal in 2004. In 2009 he won the World Sprint Championships in Moscow, the site of his first World Allround Championship victory. By winning he became the second male skater to have won both the Sprint and Allround in their career, after Eric Heiden. He has won six World Single Distance Championships titles, three at 1500 meters (in 2004, 2007 and 2009) and three at 1000 meters (in 2007, 2008 and 2011), and he led the United States to its first and only World Championship gold medal in the Team Pursuit event in 2011. He has won ten career Overall World Cup titles, six at 1000 meters (in 2006, 2008–10, 2012, 2014) and four at 1500 meters (2008–2011). Davis also earned the title of Grand World Cup Champion for the 2013–14 season, earning the most points across all distances. His 58 career individual victories on the ISU Speed Skating World Cup circuit (through March 2014) place him second all-time among men.[2]

Davis has set a total of nine world records,[3] three of them current (through April 2016): 1:06.42 over 1000 meters, 1:41.04 at 1500 meters, and 145.742 in allround samalog points. He also sits atop the world Adelskalender list after taking the lead from Sven Kramer in March 2009. The Adelskalender ranks the all-time fastest long track speed skaters by personal best times in the four World Allround Championship distances.[1] Davis is known for his consistency and technical proficiency.[4] Davis is native to Chicago, Illinois, and trains at two U.S. Olympic training facilities, the Pettit National Ice Center in West Allis, Wisconsin, and the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Early life

Davis was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Reginald Shuck, picked his son's name (Shani) out of a Swahili dictionary. The English translation is a mixture of "light" and "weight".[5] Davis learned to roller skate at the age of 2. By the time he was 3, he could skate so quickly that he had to be slowed down by the rink's skate guards. Davis's mother worked for a local lawyer and speed skating official whose son was an elite level speed skater. At the lawyer's suggestion, his mother enrolled her son at the Robert Crown Center in nearby Evanston when he was six years old. Within two months, Davis was winning regional races in his age groups, earning the admiration of his friends and Northbrook rivals alike.

Determined that her son reach his maximum potential, his mother would wake Davis up in the mornings to run a mile on a nearby track to build up his endurance. In order to be closer to his skating club, she and Davis moved from the neighborhood of Hyde Park to Rogers Park.[6]


Junior-level competition

At 16, Davis was invited to Lake Placid, New York, to participate in a development program for young speed skaters. After training there for a year, Davis decided to pursue his Olympic dreams and moved to Marquette, Michigan, to further his training. There, he would graduate from Marquette Senior High School, where he ran track his senior year.

Davis earned spots on both the long track and short track teams at the 1999 junior world championship, simultaneously making the national team. In 2000, he made history by becoming the first U.S. skater to make the long and short track teams at the Junior World Teams, a feat he would accomplish again in 2001 and 2002. His height has always made him unique among short trackers, as most are much shorter, making it easier to race low to the ice.[4] Davis would go on to win a bronze medal in the Team Relay at the 2005 World Short Track Championships in Beijing, China, shared by U.S. teammates Apolo Ohno, Rusty Smith and Alex Izykowski.

2002 Winter Olympics

Olympic qualification controversy

In December 2001, Davis traveled to Utah to race for a spot on the 2002 Winter Olympics short track team. Teammates Apolo Ohno and Rusty Smith already had slots on the six-man team due to points earned from earlier races, and Ron Biondo was a lock for the third spot. In order for Davis to qualify, he would have to win the final race. As both Ohno and Smith were also participating, Davis would have to beat them both. Since Ohno had been dominant in the meet to this point, winning every race he entered with ease, a win by Davis seemed to be a long shot.

In a major surprise, the 1000 m race would end with Ohno coming in third, Smith second and Davis at the top of the podium. Davis's first-place finish earned him enough points to move past Tommy O'Hare, whom Davis beat earlier in the semi-final, in the final point standings and to qualify for sixth place. Davis became the first African-American skater to earn a spot on the team.

However, the euphoria of the victory was short-lived, as rumors began to swirl that Ohno and Smith, both good friends of Davis's, intentionally threw the race so that Davis would win.[7] After returning to Colorado Springs, O'Hare would file a formal complaint. For three days, Ohno, Smith and Davis stood before an arbitration panel as three of their fellow skaters testified that they heard Ohno telling Smith that he was going to let Davis win.[8]

Ohno would later confess that he had subconsciously held back for fear of suddenly crashing into Davis or Smith, a common occurrence in the sport, pointing out that he did not need to win the race because he already had a spot on the team. Questions persisted that if Ohno had really held back, why did he keep passing Biondo? Some speculated that Ohno was holding off Biondo from challenging Smith, as Smith also needed to finish ahead of Biondo in order to secure a spot in the 1000 m for Salt Lake. Even this scenario would have been a violation of the rules of team skating. Both claims went unproven in the arbitration case, and all three were absolved of guilt.

On February 13, 2002, Sports Illustrated writer Brian Cazeneuve published an article stating that, after reviewing the race, "To this day, there is no concrete proof that any skaters violated the spirit of competition."[9] Cazeneuve however, also published the comments of Outdoor Life Network commentator Todd Harris and 1998 Winter Olympian speed skater Eric Flaim, which were made during the broadcast of the race; both men agreed that Ohno and Smith had not skated to the best of their abilities.

Wanting to be able to concentrate on both long track and short track, and living at the time in Marquette, Michigan, a town with no long track, Davis decided to move to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 2003. Once there, he trained with the 1998 short track gold medalist Derrick Campbell.

A dream deferred

Upon arriving in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, after opening day ceremonies, Davis decided to leave the Games early to compete in the 2002 Junior Country March and Junior World Championships held in Italy, where he won the 1500 m at both competitions. Davis became the only U.S. skater to ever make both short track and long track junior world teams three years in a row.

Turning pro

Davis made the jump from junior competition to men's speed skating in 2003. He became the North American long track champion in February 2003, qualifying him for the World Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden. Not yet adjusted to skating in the men's division, Davis's scores were much lower than usual, and Davis finished 16th overall.

January 2004 would find him a North American champion for the second consecutive year. Davis would finish in second place overall in the 2004 World Allround Long Track Championships in Hamar, Norway. In March, Davis won the 1500 m at the men's World Single Distance Championships in Seoul, finishing the race in 1:48.64 in March 2004.

Davis set three world records in 2005 – two of them in Salt Lake City. On January 9, 2005, at the World Championship Qualifier, he broke the 1500 m world record, recording a time of 1:43.33. He also set the world record for best overall time in the history of the Qualifiers – 149.359. A month later, Davis would win the World Champion all-round, scoring 150.778 points. In November, Davis would break another world record at the third World Cup match in the fall of 2005, skating the 1000 m in 1:07.03. Davis did not participate at the Olympic Trials in Salt Lake City in December 2005 because his performances in the Fall World Cup events had already pre-qualified him for the Olympic Team in the 1000 m, 1500 m and 5000 m events.

2006 Winter Olympics

Davis won the gold medal in the 1000 m and the silver medal in the 1500 m in Turin.

Turin and the team pursuit controversy

Since the team pursuit event's inception at the senior level in the 2004–05 season, Davis had never practiced or participated in the event and U.S. Speedskating never expressed an interest in Davis skating the team pursuit event. In April 2005, U.S. Speedskating voted that it could appoint skaters to the Olympic Pursuit Team who had not otherwise made the team in an individual event. Having never skated the pursuit event, Davis submitted his declaration to U.S. Speed skating informing them of his intention to skate the 1000 m, 1500 m, and 5000 m. On December 31, 2005, U.S. Speed skating named the maximum allotted 5 member team (K. C. Boutiette, Chad Hedrick, Charles Leveille, Clay Mull and Derek Parra). However, upon arriving in Turin, without Davis' knowledge or consent, the U.S. coaches named Davis as a substitute to the pursuit team. In case of an injury after the team had entered the competition track, substitution would be permitted if an International Skating Union (ISU) Withdrawal Form had been presented to and accepted by the Referee.[10] There were no such injuries which meant that Davis was not even eligible to skate the team pursuit event at the Olympics.

On Saturday, February 11, the lineup for Team USA was announced. Hedrick would skate with Mull and Leveille for the preliminary races, reserving veteran Olympians Boutiette and Parra for the finals.[11] Within hours, articles denouncing Davis as a poor teammate, unpatriotic and selfish were posted on the Internet, hitting the newspapers the next day leaving Davis having to defend himself and make up excuses for not skating an event he was never eligible to skate in the first place while U.S. Speedskating remained silent. Much of the criticism towards Davis was from Hedrick himself. Two days before the official announcement, Hedrick stated, "I don't see what his logic is. We can't be beat if he skates. It's his decision. I'm not going to get in the middle of it. I would like him to be in the pursuit, but am I going to beg him? No."[12]

Ironically, one of the reasons why Davis said he did not want to skate the pursuit event was so that the two skaters who had not earned spots in any individual event and had been brought to Turin specifically to skate the team pursuit would have a chance to compete—a chance that Davis was denied during the 2002 Games. "It was a difficult decision for me," Davis said. "Athletes came here just for [team] pursuit. I came here just for the 1000 meters, the 1500 meters, the 5000 meters."[13] In an email sent by U.S Speedskating Executive Director on February 3, 2005, USS terminated Davis' athlete agreement effective February 4, 2005, discontinuing Davis' USS benefits and terminating USS rights to the use of Davis' name and image. Davis remains estranged from U.S. Speedskating.[14]

Post-Olympic performance

Davis during the World Cup in Heerenveen in 2007

Davis won the final 1000 m World Cup event of the 2006 season at Thialf, Heerenveen, with a time of 1:08.91, becoming the first skater to skate below 1:09 in Heerenveen and also winning the overall World Cup on the 1000 meters. He placed fourth overall in the 1500 meters World Cup, despite only competing in three of the five races.

Davis then defended his World Allround Championships title in Calgary in March 2006 with a world record allround score of 145.742. At the competition, Davis was paired with teammate Chad Hedrick in the 1500 meter race, and dramatically broke Hedrick's own world record with a time of 1:42.68, which Davis would later rebreak that year with a time of 1:42.32. Regarding his world allround title, Davis said, "To me, this is bigger than the Olympics. This medal is prestigious. Not only do you have to skate 500 meters, but you have to skate 10000, you have to skate a 1500 and a 5000 and you only have two days to do it."[5]

In the 2006–07 season, Davis placed third at the World Sprint Championships held in Hamar in January 2007 and also won world titles in the 1000 m and 1500 m events at the World Single Distance Championships held in Salt Lake City in March 2007.

In the 2007–08 season, Davis won overall world cup titles in the 1000 m and 1500 m, defended his 1000 m world title at the World Single Distance Championships held in Nagano, Japan, and tied for second in the 1500 m with Sven Kramer of the Netherlands.

In the 2008–09 season, Davis defended his world cup titles in the 1000 m and 1500 m, broke world records in the 1000 m and 1500 m, won the 1500 world title at the Word Single Distance Championships held in Vancouver, Canada, placed third in 1000 m, and won the 2009 World Sprint Speed Skating Championship in Moscow, becoming only the second male skater in history to win both the World Allround and World Sprint titles, joining Eric Heiden.

2010 Winter Olympics

Shani Davis with medals won in the 2010 Olympics

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Davis competed in four long-track speed skating events: the 500, 1000, 1500 and 5000 meter races. All four of these events were held at the Richmond Olympic Oval, where Davis had held the track record in the 1000 and 1500 meter races, setting those records in 2009. Davis won the 1000-meter speed skating event, becoming the first man to win back-to-back 1000-meter Olympic speed skating gold medals and the only gold medal for speed skating from the United States at these games. Davis won in 1 minute and 8.94 seconds,[15] finishing just 18/100ths of a second quicker than his rival, South Korea's Mo Tae-bum.[16] Davis won a silver medal at the 1500 m distance, being defeated for the gold medal by Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands.[17] Davis finished 12th in the 5000 meters and withdrew after a poor first race in the 500 meters.

2014 Winter Olympics

In the 1000-meter race, Davis finished 8th at 1:09.12. In the 500-meter race, Davis finished 24th at 70.98. In the 1500-meter race, Davis finished 11th at 1:45.98. He did not compete in the 5000.


Personal records

Personal records[18]
Men's speed skating
Event Result Date Location Notes
500 m 34.78 March 6, 2009 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City
1000 m 1:06.42 March 7, 2009 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City Current world record.[19]
1500 m 1:41.04 December 11, 2009 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City Current world record.[19]
3000 m 3:45.30 October 18, 2014 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City
5000 m 6:10.49 March 18, 2006 Olympic Oval, Calgary
10000 m 13:05.94 March 19, 2006 Olympic Oval, Calgary
Big combination 145.742 March 18–19, 2006 Olympic Oval, Calgary Current world record.[20]

World records

World records[3]
Men's speed skating
Event Result Date Location Notes
1500 m 1:43.33 January 9, 2005 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City World record until beaten by Chad Hedrick on November 18, 2005.[21]
Big combination 149.359 January 8–9, 2005 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City World record until beaten by Chad Hedrick on January 21–22, 2006.[20]
1000 m 1:07.03 November 20, 2005 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City World record until beaten by Pekka Koskela on November 10, 2007.[22]
1500 m 1:42.68 March 19, 2006 Olympic Oval, Calgary World record until beaten by himself on March 4, 2007.[21]
Big combination 145.742 March 18–19, 2006 Olympic Oval, Calgary Current world record.[20]
1500 m 1:42.32 March 4, 2007 Olympic Oval, Calgary World record until beaten by Erben Wennemars on November 9, 2007.[21]
1500 m 1:41.80 March 6, 2009 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City World record until beaten by himself on December 11, 2009.[21]
1000 m 1:06.42 March 7, 2009 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City Current world record.[19]
1500 m 1:41.04 December 11, 2009 Utah Olympic Oval, Salt Lake City Current world record.[19]

Personal life

Davis has trained at the Olympic speedskating center in Marquette, Michigan, where as of February 2010 he also was attending classes at Northern Michigan University.[23]

Frozone, an African-American superhero with ice powers from the animated movie The Incredibles, was allegedly inspired by Shani Davis.[24] Davis also inspired the creation of DC Inner City Excellence[25] in Washington, DC. He continues to support and encourage youth affiliated with the DC-ICE program.

Davis' great-grandmother Maude Lambert Greene was the sister of Winifred Lambert Anderson, grandmother of Maryland legislator Curt Anderson.


  1. 1 2 "Shani Davis". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC.
  2. "Shani Davis". Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  3. 1 2 "Shani Davis". Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  4. 1 2 Prospero, Linda (2006). "Shani Davis makes history" La Stampa (accessed June 26, 2006).
  5. 1 2 Shani Davis (Long Track Speedskating).
  6. "Shani Davis – Official Website". Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  7. Price, S.L. (2002): "Launch of Apolo" Sports Illustrated (accessed May 24, 2007).
  8. Outside the Lines: Was the Fix In? ESPN.
  9. Cazeneuve, Brian (2002): Did they or didn't they? More on the great short-track speed skating controversy Sports Illustrated (accessed May 30, 2007)
  11. U.S. announces team pursuit skaters. USA Today (2006-02-12)
  12. NewsDaily Archived April 19, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Wetzel, Dan (2006-02-11). "Putting the 'He' in 'team'". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on 2006-12-31.
  14. Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick full of positive vibes. The Washington Post. (2010-02-14).
  15. Speed Skating: Davis defends men's 1,000m title, February 17, 2010.
  16. Shani Davis defends his 1,000-meter speedskating gold Yahoo! Sports, February 17, 2010.
  17. Tuitert wins 1,500m, denies Davis double,
  18. "Shani Davis". Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  19. 1 2 3 4 "World Records". Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  20. 1 2 3 "Evolution of the world record Big combination Men". Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  21. 1 2 3 4 "Evolution of the world record 1500 meters Men". Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  22. "Evolution of the world record 1000 meters Men". Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  23. Northern Michigan University Olympic training center at risk in Obama plan – The Detroit News, February 3, 2010.
  24. 2006 Winter Olympics: Shani Davis profile; NOS Studio Sport.
  25. Inner City Excitement! DC-ICE. Retrieved on 2013-01-27.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shani Davis.
Preceded by
Netherlands Gerard van Velde
Finland Pekka Koskela
Men's 1000 m speed skating world record
November 20, 2005 – November 10, 2007
March 7, 2009 – present
Succeeded by
Finland Pekka Koskela
Current holder
Preceded by
United States Derek Parra
United States Chad Hedrick
Canada Denny Morrison
Men's 1500 m speed skating world record
January 9, 2005 – November 18, 2005
March 19, 2006 – November 9, 2007
March 6, 2009 – present
Succeeded by
United States Chad Hedrick
Netherlands Erben Wennemars
Current holder
Preceded by
United States Chad Hedrick
United States Chad Hedrick
Men's big combination speed skating world record
January 9, 2005 – January 21, 2006
March 19, 2006 – present
Succeeded by
United States Chad Hedrick
Current holder
Preceded by
United States Chad Hedrick
Canada Jeremy Wotherspoon
Oscar Mathisen Award
Succeeded by
Canada Cindy Klassen
Czech Republic Martina Sáblíková
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