South Side native Shani Davis heads to Sochi this week to compete in long track speedskating.
Shani Davis got his start in Chicago, skating at roller rinks and, eventually, the Evanston Speed Skating Club. Now, after securing both gold and silver at the Winter Olympic games in Vancouver in 2010 and Turin in 2006, he’s aiming for Olympic gold in the long track speedskating events at Sochi. We talked to the hometown hero about future goals, his role as a Ralph Lauren Olympic athlete ambassador, and his favorite things to do back home.
How is going to the Olympics different now than it was the first time you went? SHANI DAVIS: My expectations are the same for every competition I enter: prepare the best I possibly can to perform the best I possibly can. I think I conquered my nerves in the last two Olympics, so this time around I'm prepared to be more relaxed—although there's no way to entirely escape being nervous in an Olympic race, at least up until the gun goes off and instinct takes over. There's probably more U.S. and worldwide focus on me than before, but I'm in the point in my career where I embrace that.
How did growing up in Chicago help get you where you are today? SD: Everything about me is tied to being from Chicago, from the strength I have to deal with hardship, to the mentality of not getting too full of myself. I've had to have big shoulders to get this far, and I've learned not to be intimated or discouraged by strong headwinds. Plus, watching Michael Jordan in my formative athletic years left me with a good template for athletic excellence!
You’ve already set world records, won medals, and more. What are your future goals? SD: There are several speedskating goals I still have in my sights, mostly involving World Cup wins and World Championship titles, but my main goal is to continue to take care of my body, mind, and spirit, and skate at a high level for as long as I can.
How did you get involved with Ralph Lauren, and how does the brand align with your personal style? SD: I've always been a fan of Ralph Lauren style: classic, simple, rugged. I wore it a lot growing up, especially the polo shirt in all the different colors. They are a leader in fashion, and chose me as a featured athlete for this Olympic cycle, for which I'm very grateful; they changed how I view fashion and matured my look. One of the best parts of the relationship is that I've now got some great portrait photos of me in something other than a Lycra body suit!
If you weren’t speedskating, what do you think you would be doing? SD: Wow. If I wasn't skating I'd probably either be playing another sport professionally or working with young people as a coach or teacher. It's hard to even imagine another path since I've been on this one since I was in elementary school. But I can't wait to see where I am 20 years from now, too.
Where do you go when you’re back in Chicago? SD: Well, I'm pretty much a homebody whenever I'm home in Chicago, since so much of the year is spent away from it. Mainly I'll hang with friends in Rogers Park or Evanston, and of course I'll take in a Bulls or White Sox game when I can. And I do like to shop wherever I am in the world—especially on Michigan Avenue!