Saturday, February 18, 2006

Shani Davis Wins Olympic Gold Medal, But At What Price?

by Robert H. Kelly

Shani Davis won the 1000 meter event in speed skating at the 2006 Winter Olympic in Turin, Italy.

AOL has a poll on its web site to select the biggest star for the USA up to this point at the Olympics.

Davis is winning with fifty-three percent of the vote.

Does anyone recall that this guy ditched his teammates earlier in the week by “choosing” not to participate in the team pursuit event? That decision perhaps cost the USA a medal.

Davis was quoted in saying,

"A lot of these people haven't even skated as long as me..... I'll be pretty upset if people got upset about my decisions and what I feel is best for me because all in all, I know what's best for me. ... I worked to get here. None of my teammates helped me get to where I am.”

Davis and his mother have had an acrimonious relationship with US Speedskating and a sometimes tenuous rapport with his teammates.

USA gold medalist Chad Hedrick was quoted prior to the team pursuit race,

"We'd have a really, really good chance if Shani skated…but I'm not going to beg Shani to skate the pursuit with me.”

This is just another case of an athlete placing himself above his team and teammates.

How can we celebrate an athlete for his performance when he acts like that?

He won a gold medal at the Olympics, but his attitude and commitment to his country and his teammates speak volumes about him.

Those volumes add to the negativity of him and lessen his achievement.

Will the athletes of the 21st century even learn? Learn that the team is more important that the individual.

Count me as one who will not celebrate this athlete’s performance. I am sure there are many more who feel the same.


Anonymous said...

Do some research. How is getting Chad Hedrick 'his' 5 gold medals more a higher team pursuit. Chad Hedrick admitted that once he was beat by Shani he did not care about the race anymore. Your prejudice is blatant. Most of the winter olympic sports are individual competitions anyway. It is typical that you go out of your way to diminish the historic accomplishments of another race.

Skating Fan said...

I agree, however not with the previous post. Perhaps he or she should be the one to do the research. Davis has been nothing but a malcontent since his selection as an "alternate" to the 2002 Olympic Team.

If his not participating in the team pursuit event was so critical to his 1000 meter performance, why did he wait until a few days before the event to declare he would not participate?

Davis could have done so much more to improve his image, and skating in the team pursuit would have strengthened his image and made him a media darling.

And why is being a media darling so important?

1. It sends a message to those that look up to him as a role model that they can excel in any sport they choose and helping others means helping ones self.

2. Americans love a team player. That is what the United States was founded on…teamwork.

3. Sponsors look at media darlings as profit, which WOULD PUT MORE sponsorship and endorsement money in his pocket.

He just CHOSE not to be a team player. Could you imagine the backlash that would occur if a runner or a swimmer CHOSE not to participate in a relay at the Olympics?

You need to do YOUR homework and have a reality check. Everybody loves people who give of themselves. It is a real cold rock of selfishness he is sitting on now.

And many out there agree!!!

Anonymous said...

News flash:

Shani Davis doesn't have to be a media darling in this country.

He trains in Canada.

He is sponsored by a Dutch bank and makes money by touring Europe.

That he even skated for "Team USA" is, quite frankly, a fluke ... considering how he has been treated.

I wouldn't blame him if he did jump ship and move to the European teams. At least they financially support him. Here, we're calling him everything but a child of God and trying to diminish an accomplishment that neither you nor I nor anyone else on this bulletin board can do.

Getting respect is about action, not words. He is a gold medalist and he deserves that respect.

Ice is nice, but speed skating is faster. said...

Another EXPERT raises his head!!! What else is new?

If he wants to "jump ship" and compete for the European teams, GO FOR IT! See how far it gets him.

Europe is not a country, it is a continent. You cannot compete for a continent in international competition.

As far as he has been treated, I believe that you are treated the same as you treat others. How come no one else has the problems he has with USA Speed Skating and other skaters?

And don't bring up skin color. That has nothing to do with it.

It is about his ability and attitude, and yes he has both. It is a shame that one of those is very negative.

Anonymous said...

The United States was founded on teamwork? Exactly what team was Shani Davis' ancestors on? Please. It was Chad Hedrick with his "quest to win five gold medals" nonsense, knowing full well that he was going to be competing against Davis for three of them. And you are going at great lengths to interpret glances and body language on the part of Davis that MAY BE a sign of a bad attitude of some sort while completely ignoring how Hedrick is openly questioning Davis' character and patriotism. Davis, meanwhile, refuses to respond in kind. What really seems to be going on is that Hedrick a skating veteran, is trying his best to get inside Davis' head so that Hedrick can win the 1500. If that is his tactic, fine, it isn't illegal or even immoral. Just do not be gullible and buy into Hedrick's nonsense. He is just as selfish as Davis if not more so.

ice is nice but speed skating is faster said...

WOW...yet another expert (or the same one who posted earlier) bringing race into it. When one cannot make their point with logic, they play the race card. "Exactly what team was Shani Davis' ancestors on?" Those were your exact words.

It really doesn't matter if Hedrick is trying to get into Davis' head or not.

Davis is a jerk...he always has been. It is obvious that you do not know him and his mother's background.

Ever wonder WHY he has to get a Dutch Bank to sponsor him, yet all the other USA Speed Skaters have American sponsors?

That thirty second NBC interview will cost him millions.

But perhaps some gang banger rap promoter will help him out.

You may even see him hosting Girls Gone Wild with Snoop Dog.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so I played "the race card." Big deal. Race is a legitimate issue in this country. Quit being so hypersensitive. Be a man, an adult. It isn't as if I called you a racist or attributed your or anyone else's criticisms of him to racism. Anyone, that is, except for those folk who flamed his website with racial slurs, and the many racial slurs aimed at him that I have seen on message boards. Oh gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with his "attitude problem"? Or maybe he gets those racial slurs because he has an attitude problem? Sure, that was why slavery and Jim Crow happened ... they all had bad attitudes.

And being a jerk prevents you from getting sponsorship deals? Since when? You know very well that being a jerk gets you MORE sponsorship deals. You get promoted as EDGY. A REBEL. I will not name names because I do not want to attack anybody, especially anyone who has been falsely accused, who has changed their ways, or who will one day change their ways, but you know very well examples of who I am writing about.

The truth is that Khani Davis' personality (which is more surly than, say, violent dishonest, or criminal anyway; it isn't as if he is headed for prison or is causing anyone harm or anything), his sponsorships, where he trains, and his mother are pretty much irrelevant to anything important. What matters is that Davis won the 1000 in the Olympics, which he certainly would not have had he skated in the team pursuit, seeing as he only won by a 1/4 second!

Be honest, it makes no difference to you whether Davis won the 1000m or not, right? As a matter of fact, since you clearly LOATHE Davis, you would have been HAPPIER had he lost. Right? And the fact that U.S. Speedskating stopped funding his training and paying for his education at Northern Michigan University, you could truly care less, right?

So you have no stake or interest in Davis' success, skating or otherwise, and furthermore would not terribly mind witnessing his personal and professional failure, even if it is only because he is a jerk. Am I wrong? So, why should he care about the opinions of the likes of you? And the same goes for Chad Hedrick, U.S. Speedskating, American sponsors, and NBC.

I would rather have Davis act as he truly feels than to act how people expect him to. What, do you want the kid to live a lie? Why? What interest would that serve? For what? For MONEY? Yeah, that's promoting great values all right. Do anything and everything for the almighty dollar. Those are great values that you are promoting there, buddy.

Anonymous said...

Hey all:

Seems like Robert Kelly is pretty Anti-Shani and there is a back and forth flame going here.

I'm not white or black, and I gotta say, I ended up on Shani's side b/c the behind the scenes shots kinda told me that NBC were stirring the press machine. Cynically, I think it was to get ratings b/c Michelle Kwan was out.

Few things:

- NBC paid almos over $450m for the TV rights, I think I read. So, the stakes are high and they have to get drama going to chip at American Idol.
- Stark's first interview was pretty awful ... I'm no journalist, but I do know that she was kind of being either passive aggressive with her "angry" question or at least it was not in support of Shani. I think she was frustrated in not getting the responses she wanted, so she just let him have it with that passive aggressive question and that bemused expression at the end there. It wasn't in my mind very professional ...
- I do think Shani is a nerd when it comes to answering leading questions. He missed a lot of easy layups. He needs some media training. For example, in a later nicer interview with Melissa Stark, it came off much better, as if they sync'd beforehand. But then she asked what this meant to the kids at home, and what he'd like to say. He said what a kid would say ... I'll be home soon and well hug and play around. Now, every media trained athlete would know that was a call to a polished "kids, have hope" speech. Shani seems to be just a very big kid with a strong willed mother. He answered very purely, like a kid. So, to me, that shows that he's just honest, too honest, with where he's at, and untrained with media. You see that in every behind the scenes shot of him. He's smiling, etc. He freezes up when it's not a candid shot.
- Finally, on Sat after Apolo won the 500m, they showed a clip of Shani and Apolo hugging behind the scenes. I think Jimmy Jang was there too. It was like 3 kids hugging. Apolo was quick to get back onto the bicycle ... maybe it was before the relay. But, the pure joy and who they really were as people and athletes ... that tells me that he wins over Hedrick. Hedrick was a baby when he lost the 1000m. NBC didn't show that he took off his skates. That was written, but not reported by NBC.
- I think NBC has too much interest to package the games for fans, and in doing so, they drive away the pure joy of the sport. Irony, yet, who can tell beforehand. The stakes are high ... jobs, money, ... pure business.

I saw it was very human when we got candid shots of the athletes ... which, in the end, is why Shaun White is so fun. Maybe if Shani allowed NBC to shoot him as he really is without the tension ... maybe then we'd be able to collect 3 Wheaties boxes. Maybe NBC would have made more money on investment, and maybe then sport would be enhanced for all of us who are at home.

Finally, as 35 year soccer player, I really don't like Chad's attitude ... Soccer is a team sport, so I think I understand teamwork and teams. It also has clear fair play ethics. Check out the FIFA Fair Play page online. Chad was pretty much the opposite of a class act, not a team player, according to all my training from soccer players better than me. Finally, there is a picture on anothe blog that shows Shani and Chad sitting opposite of one another on a flight home. Was all of that an act? Or, did they get played by NBC? We will never know. We can only opine.