Shani Davis, a men’s speedskater who is a five-time Olympic qualifier and an Olympic pioneer, caused controversy with a tweet that questioned the process used to select the flag bearer for the U.S. team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Davis has accused the American team of “dishonorably” tossing a coin to decide that Erin Hamlin would carry the flag, not Davis. Davis included the hashtag #BlackHistoryMonth2018 with his tweet. Shani Davis was the first black speed skater on the American Olympic team, according to his website. He is the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang will mark his 5th Olympics.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Davis Tied With Erin Hamlin in the Vote Over Carrying the Flag
Initially, Shani Davis and Erin Hamlin, a bronze medalist in luge, tied for the honor of carrying the flag in Pyeongchang. “The flag bearer is typically chosen in a vote of the eight US winter sport federations, which represent biathlon, bobsled and skeleton, curling, figure skating, hockey, luge, ski and snowboarding, and speed skating,” CNN reported.
When the pair tied 4-4 in that vote, a coin toss was conducted, and Hamlin won it, Davis claimed on Twitter. Davis unloaded on the social media site, writing, “I am an American and when I won the 1000m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event. @TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022. #BlackHistoryMonth2018 #PyeongChang2018.”
It’s not the first time that Davis has written provocative tweets. For example, he wrote in January, “Don’t know why it is so important to NBC to shout “FOURTH” but they can argue, lie and shout all they want and it still doesn’t make them right. I, Shani Davis, am going to my Fifth Olympics and I do not need to shout it because #TruthHasAVoice.”
He has also written about being a pioneer in a “limited-access” sport for African-Americans: “Before me, a couple of pioneers who competed in non-traditional, limited-access sports: Debi Thomas (L) first black American to compete in an individual event at a Winter Game ’88, winning bronze medal. Dominique Dawes (r) ’92, ’96, 2000 Summer Games winning 1 gold and 3 bronze.”
2. Davis, Who Was Born in Chicago, Started Skating at Local Rollerskating Rinks at Age Two
Shani Davis took to the ice at the young age of 2 at local roller skating rinks in Chicago, Illinois, where he was born and raised by his mother, Cherie. “Shani Davis was born on Friday, August 13, 1982, in Chicago, Illinois. Raised by his mother on the city’s south side, he started roller-skating at local rinks at age two. By age four Shani was darting around the roller rink so fast that skate guards would chase him just to ask him to slow down,” according to the biography on his website.
He soon switched to ice skating. “Seeming to become bored with roller-skating, a coach suggested that Shani switch to ice skating. Shortly thereafter, his mother started working for an attorney whose son happened to be involved in speed skating at an elite level and who suggested that Shani give speed skating a try,” says the bio. Davis’ father’s name is Reginald Shuck.
According to his website, “Shani joined the Evanston Speedskating Club at age six and within two months started competing locally. Though immediately thrilled by the sport’s speed, at competitions Shani was generally more interested in running around with his skating friends and playing video games than he was with competing.”
However, he was winning competitions by age eight, and even though there are “no speed skating clubs in inner city Chicago, at age 10 Shani and his mother moved to the far north side of the city to be closer to the Evanston rink,” the biography says, quoting Shani as saying of his mother: “My mom never thought of herself first. I credit most of my success to her. She continues to manage my career and is always there for me.”
3. Shani Davis Is One of the Most Decorated American Speedskaters Ever & a Pioneer in the Sport
Shani Davis “is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of long track speedskating,” according to TeamUSA.org. He has the hardware to show for it. According to NBC News, “he’s the first African-American athlete and first black athlete from any country to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics.”
“He has won four Olympic medals – back-to-back golds in the 1,000-meter and back-to-back silvers in the 1,500 in 2006 and 2010 – in addition to 30 world championship medals. With more than 100 world cup medals to his name, he is also the all-time leader in world cup points,” the team site reports.
According to NBC, “He also currently holds two world records, in the 1000m and 1500m. Both of the records were set at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City in 2009.”
Shani frequently blogs about his Olympic experiences, writing, “In the end, I’m happy with everything and I’m thankful for the hardships and challenges of not having everything handed to me. I think it made me stronger and more resilient so I could not only handle misfortune, but anything that came my way.”
He wrote about visiting his hometown of Chicago. “It was great, not so much the weather (cold, cloudy and rainy), but just being able to lay in my own bed, see friends that I grew up with, catch up with family, and – one of my most favorite parts – eat Chicago cuisine! My metabolism isn’t what it used to be, but since I have this master plan of being ‘the man’ or ‘that dude,’ I enjoyed it! If it was fried chicken, pizza or combination sandwiches of Italian beef and Italian sausage, I devoured it! And the taste was amazing because after being away all season (normally 6 to 7 months) I had that huge withdrawal and when I returned that is what I craved the most – oh yeah, and sleep!”
4. Davis May Have Inspired the Disney Cartoon Character ‘Frozone’ & Has a Young Son
Shani Davis may be the inspiration for the Frozone superhero character in the Disney Pixar film, The Incredibles. Frozone is “an African-American superhero who can create and control ice,” as NBC notes.
In 2013, he responded to a joking tweet from someone asking to marry him by saying he didn’t have a wife: “Lol, sorry right now I’m happily married to skating! might separate after 2018, though.” Shani is the father to a 9-year-old son named Ayize, which is Zulu for “let it come.” Little is known about Shani Davis’ girlfriend, although, by some reports, she is Japanese.
In 2010, ESPN reported that Davis had a reputation for shunning the media, writing, “He chooses not to be included in the U.S. speedskating media guide. He did not attend the U.S. media summit in Chicago, which helps reporters covering the games get to know Olympic athletes. In the past, at least in the U.S., he has often chosen not to be interviewed at all if he can possibly help it. He says he only seeks attention from skating fast.”
5. Shani Davis Is a Millionaire Who Is Particularly Popular in the Netherlands
Celebrity Net Worth pegs Davis’ net worth at around $2 million. “Davis attended Marquette Senior High School followed by Northern Michigan University. He received his first Olympic gold medals in the 2006 Turin 1000m race and the 2010 Vancouver 1000m race, as well as he earned Silver Medals for the 1500m races in Turin and then again in Vancouver,” the site notes.
Davis has a lot of Dutch fans, according to NBC, where his “graceful and elegant style of skating” is especially admired. As a result, he has earned Dutch sponsorships. In fact, his mother Cherie in previous years wore the national colors of the Netherlands at events, ESPN reports.