Hyde Park native Davis snags gold at Olympics

By Bourree Lam

Hyde Park native Shani Davis made Winter Olympic history as the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal. Davis, 23, won the 1,000-meter men’s speed skating event on Saturday in Turin, Italy.

Davis crossed the finish line with a time of 1:08.09, a mere 0.27 seconds ahead of teammate Joey Cheek and just over a second above the current world record.

Born in Chicago, Davis’s mother made the decision to move from Hyde Park to Rogers Park when he was 10 years old in order to be closer to the Evanston Speedskating Club, where Davis trained.

“My mom never thought of herself first, and I credit most of my success to her,” Davis said on his website.

Davis showed his South Side pride by donning a White Sox cap upon his victory.

In 2002, Davis became the first black to make the U.S. Olympic skating team. In a press conference following his gold medal win, Davis joked about his success in a predominately white sport as wanting to become the “Michael Jordan of speed skating.”

Davis has been drawing fire from both critics and teammates since his decision to skip the long-track speed skating team event in order to focus on his individual races.

Shani will try for his second medal on Tuesday, February 21 in the 1,500 meter event against fellow American speed skater Chad Hedrick, who currently holds the world record for the event.