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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: February 20, 2006
Latest Update: February 20, 2006
This backup copy is to be used only if the original site on the Web is not accessible. It is meant to preserve the document for teaching purposes, when sometimes the URLS are changed when sites are updated, or sites are eliminated. Please be certain to give credit if you refer to this to the original URL: http://www.usspeedskating.org/news/Olympics_cheekdavisqanda.html. Original URL, consulted: February 20, 2006.
Q&A: Davis, Cheek Talk about Their Gold, Silver 1000m Medals
Shani Davis and Joey Cheek answer a few questions after winning the gold and silver, respectively, in the men's 1,000 meter speed skating finals.
Q1: This is more of an individual sport and then the team pursuit was added. What did you think when they added the team pursuit into the mix of a very individual sport?
DAVIS: Ever since I was a kid, I would joke around with my friend and I would say, 'man, someday I want to win the 1,000 meter. Because I was always going the 1,000 meter at the pack-style. It gave me just enough time to get up to speed because a lot of kids would beat me in the one lap when I was a midget and a juvenile and stuff like that. So I started thinking about having the opportunity to be able to chase that dream to win the 1,000. It's kind of complicated because all my life it was individual events, you know? Short track had the team events. You train with the national team and you go to relay camps and things like this, and you train to be part of the team if you make that team. And I was pre-qualified in the 1,000, I was pre-qualified in the 1,500 and I was pre-qualified in the 5,000. At the Olympic Trials for long track, they named an Olympic team And they also named other people just to come here who did not make the Olympic team to skate the pursuit.
I'm going to say this again, I'll say this 100 times. After the Olympics in 2002 when I went there I didn't partake in anything, I wasn't even able to practice because I wasn't named the fifth man, they took six people. I told myself I would never, ever take anyone else's opportunity to skate at the Olympic Games if I there was something I was going for myself at the Olympic Games. And I stuck to my word.
If it happens again, hopefully it'll be more of an organized thing where I know I'll be a part of the pursuit or people want me to do the pursuit. Maybe I'll know ahead of time of I can adjust accordingly so I can make a decision not only for myself, but for everyone else who's involved in the sport of skating.
Q2: What is your experience as an African-American athlete?
DAVIS: I think one of the hardest things for me, since I'm an African-American athlete ... being in speed skating ... as you all know many African-American athletes don't choose speedskating. They choose to go into track and field, they choose to go into basketball, but I choose a different route. It's not a hard thing for me because I love what I do. I wake up every morning wanting to be better, wanting to be the best. I put a lot of time and effort into the sport of speedskating and regardless of color, I'm going to work just as hard as any of my teammates or just as hard as anyone from any part of the world that comes here. I just want to go out there and igve it my best, show that I can be competitive and show that I can be a good sport about things, even if I lose. I just want to be the best I can be, regardless of black, white, hispanic, whatever.
Q3: What does it mean for you to win this gold medal?
DAVIS: I've been skating for 17 years, I've been skating since I was six years old. Like I said, I use to joke around with my friends that I want to win the 1,000 meters someday. Just jokingly. I would have never known when I was 12 years old that at 23 I was going to win an Olympic gold medal in a distance that I use to joke around about. It's just a great feeling and it shows that even though the road is rough to get to where you're at, you have to work hard and shelter the storm. You have to ride it out because eventually if you work hard enough, you'll get your chance to try to do something great.
This is one of those things. Things weren't easy for me. Ever since 2002 it's been a really, really rough road. But I kept on fighting because I knew deep down inside that I was a good skater. I'm not a slow skater and I can be a competitive skater. I wanted to be one of the best skaters and now I'm happy that I can have that title on my name, Olympic champ. That's a great thing.
Q4: The social significance of this, I know you don't like to label yourself as an African-American athlete, but you're the first African-American male to win an Olympic gold medal in the winter Olympics. Is this a breakthrough? Is this significant?
DAVIS: I would say it would be if this sport was a bigger sport, was more recognized by minorities and things like that. But since it isn't, I think that it's still a breakthrough. It's what people make of it. If people in America are excited to have a black Olympic champion in speedskating, then I'm happy that I can make people happy. But I try not to worry about things like that. I just try to do my best and if my best gets attention or gets recognized for things I've done, than great.
Q5: You said you'd like to get kids involved from the inner-city in this sport.
DAVIS: It's the snowball effect. You take a small snowball and roll it down the hill and by the time it gets down the hill it can be like an avalanche. And hopefully this will ... well, I know for a fact that a lot of people in my club back in Evanston (Ill.), there will be a lot of people going there trying to speedskate now. A lot of kids, that's the most important thing to me. The kids, they're the future. Kids should be able to go out there and they should know about something ... I think skating's awesome. They'll see something like this, they'll see short track and they'll see that Americans winning medals. This isn't something that happens a lot, where you have three gold medalists American speedskaters. It's ruled by the Europeans. With short track, it's ruled by the Asians. You saw it with Apolo, he won a gold medal and he had the snowball effect, everybody wanted to do short track because of him. Maybe people will want to try speedskating in my area if it gets the right type of attention. If people pay attention to it and people from Chicago want to skate, that would be great.
Q6: What's your reaction to the silver medal, are you donating your Operation Gold money to Right to Play and have you heard back from any sponsors yet about what they might be donating?
CHEEK: I'm so honored to stand on the podium at the Olympics again. I've now got a whole set. From Salt Lake I've got a bronze, now I've got the silver and gold. As far as my athletic career, I couldn't be happier. As far as money, it's another $15,000 for Right to Play, so I'm really happy about that. And I think eight or nine companies, I'm not exactly sure of the total on that, but eight or nine companies have decided to match my original donation. I think it brings it up to around a quarter million dollars in corporate or foundation sponsors. Also there's been a huge outpouring of support from individuals across America and especially in Holland. So it's an honor. It's something I'm proud of and it will bring me a great deal of joy for many, many years.
Q7: How do you feel you skated tonight?
DAVIS: Joey almost gave me a heart attack when I saw how fast he was going. He was carrying his speed well, he was doing those things right. There's been a lot of people who have been able to step up and do something that, it's just the Olympic experience and that Olympic moment that pushed him to do that . I thought Joey, after the 500, he's on fire! He smoked everyone in the 400 meter split by almost four tenths. I don't think there's ever been something that's been that big of a gap in the 500 in Olympic history. It's pretty competitive. Seeing Joey open that fast and have that fast lap, I was like, 'oh my gosh!' (They were both) going so fast, I was tyring to stay cool and not sweat bullets.
But if he had done it, I don't think there would be anyone more deserving more than Joey. He's been in the sport a long time, too. He's seen the ups and downs of skating. Our experiences are kind of similar, we had to wait.
It's like a vending machine there's all types of candy in there and they all drop and are all enjoyed by so many people. And you're just waiting patiently in the front, waiting for your turn. And Joey did it this year. He won the world sprints, he won gold in the 500 and topped off with silver in the 1,000. And there's still more to go in the 1,500. So I was just up there like, man, I want to be the vending machine too! I want to drop on the bottom and have someone enjoy me! I want a medal too, I want a gold medal, too! So that's what I was saying (when Joey was racing).
CHEEK: I don't think I can top the vending machine.
That was the best race I could have skated today. I made no mistakes, I did everything I've been training to do. And Shani was the best guy. He's been the guy we've all been trying to beat all year. He hasn't been beaten in the World Cup in the 1,000 all year. I'm actually ranked second in the World Cup in the 1,000, so it turned out that way here. He's so strong in the end. I knew it was going to be exciting because we skate exactly the opposite. I'm one of the fastest in the first 600 and he's one of the fastest guys in the last 600. He got me by what, two tenths? That's pretty solid. I think he beat me by a second in the first half of the year so I'm getting closer. I'm really honored to be able to skate and race with him. Yeah, he's the Olympic champion.
Q8: What would you each take from each other's skating?
CHEEK: I'd take his last lap (laughter). Shani, when you watch him skate, more so than anybody else, partly from the short track and partly because he's such a fit guy, he's so, so strong in the turns. When the rest of us start getting tired and we're high-stepping through the turns, he's really down into it. You can see him push through the corner. There's very, very few skaters in the world that I watch. But I've got tapes of him from world singles last year and I just rewind over and over again and watch him skate the corners. The last lap though, that would be nice.
DAVIS: If I could take something from Joey, it would just be getting up to speed so fast. He's like mercury you know. He just rises. It's unreal. I always though that you have to be a short guy to be able to accelerate and get to top speeds within the 100 or 200. But Joey puts that theory to rest, being a tall guy. It's kind of funny. We're about the same height and weight and he's the world champ, Olympic champ, the world all-round champ and I'm the 1,000 meterer. It's not quite an all-around sprint, it's becoming more and more of a race. It just goes to show that us tall people can do it.