By Simon Jennings
(Reuters) – As U.S. speed skater Shani Davis prepares to take to the ice at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the one thing he knows is that the passage of time has not dimmed his appetite for success.
At 35, Davis is headed to his fifth Olympics where he will take part in the 1,000m and 1,500m, and irrespective of what he achieves in South Korea next month, he can look back with pride at a glittering career in which he has twice won Olympic gold.
The Chicago native topped the podium in the 1,000m in Turin in 2006 and took silver in the 1,500m. He defended both medals at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, but suffered heartbreak at the in Sochi four years ago.
Davis finished eighth in the 1,000m and 11th in the 1,500m in Sochi, but is ready to go again four years later hoping to end his career on a high.
“I’m 35 years old,” he said after the U.S. Olympic trials this month. “I’ve been making Olympic teams since I was 18, 19 years old, and I’ve had quite the career. I’m just honored to still be strong enough in this day and age.
“I’ve kept a solid head, stayed motivated and believed in myself. I’m really proud with myself that I was able to do it.”
Davis started ice skating at the age of six and made his debut for the United States in 2002.
By 17, he had become the first American skater to earn places on both the short track and long track junior world championship teams and repeated the feat at senior level in 2004 and 2005.
Davis has been crowned 1,000m world champion four times, in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2015, and he has three world championship titles to his name in the 1,500m.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE
As a senior statesman in the United States’ long-track squad for the Games, Davis is counting on his wealth of experience to help him challenge for medals.
“I’m honored (to be going),” he added. “Twenty years of this is quite substantial when you look at all the time I’ve put into it.
“I think I have the tools to be a real threat. For sure in the 1,000m and maybe the 1,500m. Anything can happen at the Olympics. It’s up to me to make sure I’m prepared properly.”
Although he is aware that getting an edge over the younger athletes he is competing with in South Korea will be no easy task, the veteran knows experience can be a potent weapon in its own right.
“I know there are some things that I can correct,” he said. “I’m going to work on that, put my heart and soul in that, and skate with my heart.
“I still enjoy it. I’m still trying to be the best I can be and the best speed skater that I can and I’m going to continue to plug away at it.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)