He probably didn't know it at the time, but when Shani Davis first put on a pair of ice skates as a 6-year-old, he was embarking on a potentially golden experience. Now 23, Davis is one of the top U.S. medal hopefuls in men's speedskating at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, this February. "I used to rollerskate, so the next step was to try speedskating,” he explains. "I always liked to go fast.”
"When I first started, there were nine or 10 other black skaters,” continues Davis, who trained at a rink in Evanston, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. "I thought it was typical.”
The lanky, 6-foot-2 skater (the tallest member of the American team) became the first skater to make the U.S. Junior Team in both the short- and long-track events, at age 17, a feat he accomplished three times, starting in 2000. In 2002, Davis became the first African-American to make the men's national speedskating team by qualifying as an alternate for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.