Davis feels strong – but not ready to chase Heiden
Shani Davis just shook his head and laughed.
He’s not going to start talking about his chances of winning five gold medals – maybe even six – at the Winter Olympics.
He’s not about to compare himself to Eric Heiden.
“Those are some really big shoes to fill,” Davis said. “There’s no way you’ll ever hear me say that.”
Still, let the hype begin.
Davis finished up a brilliant week at the U.S. speedskating trials with a surprisingly easy win in the 10,000 meters Sunday. Then he delivered even bigger news: He’s willing to consider being part of the team pursuit in Vancouver.
Davis made the U.S. World Cup team in all five individual events, ranging from 500 to 10,000, and the team pursuit gives him a sixth possible race. He won the 10,000 with a time of 13 minutes, 29.01 seconds – easily his fastest ever on a sea-level track.
Would he consider trying to break Eric Heiden’s iconic Winter Olympic record of five gold medals, less than two years after Michael Phelps took down Mark Spitz’s mark in the Summer Games? Davis dismissed that possibility, but acknowledged that he’s not ruling out any event at this point.
“I love the challenge,” said Davis, the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Games. “I like trying to push myself to greater and bigger heights.”
Davis didn’t skate pursuit at the 2006 Turin Games and his decision sparked a nasty feud fellow American Chad Hedrick. After blowing away the field – Hedrick included – by more than 10 seconds in the 10,000, Davis accepted his nomination as one of five skaters who could take part in the pursuit.
That doesn’t mean he’ll do it for sure in Vancouver, but it’s a tantalizing first step. The Americans would likely give the favored Dutch a major challenge if they can send out a team with Davis, Hedrick and rising star Trevor Mariscano.
“I would love for him to be part of it,” said Hedrick, who finished sixth in the 10,000, more than 19 seconds behind Davis. “If we can get it together, we’d be the team to beat.”
Back in ’06, Davis said all along he didn’t want to skate the pursuit, believing the first-time Olympic event would hurt his individual races. Hedrick – who entered five events and didn’t shy away from comparisons to Heiden – felt Davis let down his country by skipping a chance to give the Americans another speedskating medal.
With Davis on the sideline, the U.S. team had to use a slower skater and was eliminated in the early rounds.
At Vancouver, team pursuit will be the final event of the speedskating program and presumably wouldn’t interfere with Davis’ individual races. He’s certainly willing to consider it, having already tried out the concept when he skated with Hedrick and Mariscano at a meet in the
“That could be the cherry on top of my sundae if everything goes my way,” Davis said.
For now, his only sure bets in Vancouver are the 1,000 and 1,500 – he holds the world record in both. But his performance in Milwaukee, where he won the 5,000 and 10,000 and took third in the 500, might prompt him to expand his horizons.
“I didn’t think I would be as strong as I am now,” he said. “I skated really well. I’m super-excited about what lies ahead of me. For sure, I’m stronger and faster than I’ve ever been. It’s all about timing. I’ve just go to pay attention to what’s going on around me.”
The Milwaukee trials actually determined the World Cup team that will head to Europe next week for the first of five meets, the results of which will determine the U.S. Olympic squad. Davis said those meets will give him a better idea of his program for Vancouver.
“I could do every event but a lot of it has to do with scheduling,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t like to water down the potency of my skating just trying to go out there and skate everything. There are some specialists out there and you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game for those guys. If I’m watering myself down skating 5,000s and 10,000s and 500s, then that’s not so good for me.”
Both Davis and Hedrick said they want to put aside the bitterness that marred their stellar performances in
They seem on their way to patching things up.
On their way out of the arena Sunday night, they ran into each other in a basement hallway.
“Good job Shani,” Hedrick said.
“Thanks, man,” Davis replied. “See you soon.”