Speedskating: Shani Davis has more gold in his sights in Sochi
Long track • U.S. speedskating veterans says he is far from being done
Published: December 30, 2013 09:09PM
Updated: December 31, 2013 02:38PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Shani Davis celebrates a fourth place finish in the Mens 500 meter at the U.S. Olympic Time Trials, long track speedskating at the Olympic Oval in Kearns, Saturday December 28, 2013.

Kearns • Shani Davis sat on a stationary bike underneath the Olympic Oval and pedaled. With his hood pulled over his head and a water bottle clasped in his left hand, he kept churning his legs.

Not more than 10 minutes after Davis won his trademark 1,000-meter event in Sunday’s Olympic qualifiers in Kearns, America’s speedskating star took to the bike awaiting his turn to speak to reporters.

Still the face of the U.S. long-track program heading into the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, the 31-year-old Davis has adapted to the undeniable truth of age. As back-to-back gold medalist in the 1,000 meters, Davis now preps for his upcoming races immediately after they conclude.

Extra laps, ice baths, pedaling stationary bikes, massages and assuring a water bottle is glued to his hand are just some of the tactics being taken ahead of Sochi in February.

“I’m a race car,” Davis said. “You’ve got to put the best oil in it, get it tuned up so on race day it goes the fastest.”

A three-peat in the 1,000 meter — something no skater has ever accomplished — is certainly attainable. And pulling off a double with a gold in the 1,500 — an event Davis has earned silver in back-to-back Games — is in the crosshairs.

“If it’s not meant for me, then it’s just not meant for me,” Davis said. “But I’ll do everything in my power to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities.”

He’ll have to fend off the young guns.

Several young Americans like Brian Hansen, Jonathan Garcia and Joey Mantia are closing in on Davis. In Sunday’s 1,000-meter qualifier, Davis finished with a time of 1 minute, 7.52 seconds, while the 23-year-old Hansen fell by a hundredth of a second with his 1:07.53.

“I’m happy that [Shani] has his high achievements and goals, but at the same time I’m going to try and beat him if I can,” said Hansen, a fellow Chicagoan.

And Davis has taken notice of the competition.

“I’m the older brother to all these young guys and I’m just trying to keep them at bay,” he said. “They’re nipping at me, taking little pop shots, but it’s all in good fun … any time I step out on the ice and I put my hood on, I have something to prove to whoever’s watching.”

Yet Davis still has something to prove to himself.

Having been lined up for a successful 2012 World Cup season, his circuit campaign was thrust into doubt when he took two steps on an exceleration during a straightaway and tore his groin. The injury led to taking a different approach to preparing for Sochi. Unlike going full-bore in the months prior to Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010, Davis’ aim of peaking at the right time seems to be playing to tune.

He’s qualified for the 500 meter, 1,000 meter ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s 1,500-meter event at the Oval.

“We have Shani Davis,” said Garcia, who will represent the U.S. with Davis in Russia. “Who, in my opinion, is probably the greatest skater ever.”

True to skater’s form, Davis is taking his storied career one step at a time.

Asked if he’s viewing Sochi as his final Olympic hurrah, he said the future relies on the measurement of the competitive drive and the determination to race he has — to be resolved following these Games.

“ I would love to continue,” he said, “but I don’t want to be a guy to stick around just to be sticking around … there’s other things in life to do.”

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani

U.S. Speedskating Olympic Trials

At Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns

Tuesday » Men’s and women’s 1,500, 3 p.m.

Wednesday » Men’s 10,000 meter and women’s 5,000 meter, 1:30 p.m.

Shani Davis file

Age: 31

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

Sport: Long-track speedskater

Events: 500, 1,000, 1,500 meter

Accolades: Gold medal in 1,000 meter in Torino (2006), gold medal in 1,000 meter in Vancouver (2010); Silver medal in 1,500 meter in Torino (2006), silver medal in 1,500 meter in Vancouver (2010); Gold medal in World Championship All-Around in 2005 and 2006.