February 21, 2006

Gearing up (emotionally) for (watching) the 1500m finals

How do you feel about Shani Davis? Better think it over, or tonight's 1500m speed skating final will be an emotional conundrum. Davis, 23, has come up from Chicago's South Side to be the best 1000m skater in the world, but on the way he's battled with the powers that be and his teammates over sponsorship, teamsmanship, and a lot more. Some of the controversy that has stuck to him seems undeserved, like the questions about Apolo Ohno possibly letting Davis win at the short track qualifiers for Salt Lake in 2000. But although his long track performances render all that controversy moot, in his mind those questions about his right to even be at the Olympics seem to have festered.

Whatever has happened, on Saturday after winning the 1000m, he was too pissed off to relax, accept or give congratulations (laid-back teammate Joey Cheek took the silver), or to even crack a smile.

Quoth the article:

Davis said he wants to be the "Michael Jordan" of speed skating. He said he wants to help inner-city kids, for which he has an affinity because he grew up in Chicago.

"It's sort of like a snowball effect," Davis said. "You take a small snowball, roll it down the hill, and any time it gets down the hill, it can be like an avalanche. Back in Chicago, there's going to be a lot of people trying speed skating now."

But I've got bad news for Davis. When you behave as unprofessionally as he did with NBC supposedly out of anger at critical remarks made by Bob Costas, when speed skating legend Bonnie Blair is afraid to mutter your name because your mother, Cherie, told her not to discuss you, it just kills all your sincere intentions.

Right now, though, the "snowball" seems to be one of anger at a lot of different people and forces. At some level you have to wonder what's holding Davis' pride and happiness hostage: is it the obstacles themselves, or the individual letting those obstacles kill the dream even as he's achieving it? Winning the gold should be a big step toward putting those obstacles to bed.

As for Shani's rival Chad Hedrick, I don't have too much to say. The guy is only mad at Shani because of his own desire to rack up medals, and he was inexcusably bitter about Shani winning the 1000m. I wish them both a good race tonight, but I won't be rooting for Hedrick to win.


Blogger FenianBastard said...

I'm feeling that biwah. While pundits and other Olympic notables might complain that Shani's mother is throwing around the race card like an Austrian Ski coach handing out syringes, you can say that Chad Hedrick's viewpoint reeks of the patriot card, a/k/a "You're Either With Us or Against Us" thrown by the Bushies.

I can't blame Shani for his anger regarding present or future perceptions. Wanting to be the Michael Jordan of speeding skating is another way of saying he doesn't want to be the novelty that was once the Jamaican Bobsled team. I think his vison goes beyond his own acheivements.

I'll be rooting for him.

2/21/2006 2:24 PM  
Blogger bigdog said...

I sense elite liberal bias here in your not rooting for Chad Hendrick.

2/21/2006 2:39 PM  
Blogger biwah said...

Yep, me too. He should dominate. If it takes beating Hedrick at their best mutual event to make him smile, I'm all for it.

I hope the media shows a little more class as well, and focuses on the performances rather than the controversy created largely by them.

2/21/2006 2:39 PM  
Blogger shanti said...

The press conference afterwards highlighted the busted relationship between these two athletes. Both are egotistical, but if we concentrate not on the means (their respective egos) but the reported end each desires in these Olympics, I side with Shani. He wants to broadcast the sport to inner city kids. Hedrick-- I'm not so sure about, maybe success in his sport? To reach this goal, it may require isolation and focus on Shani's part...something that may prove successful or a phase he goes through in his path to help inncer city kids.

2/22/2006 1:41 PM  

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