Today should bring Shani Davis a medal -- he's a favorite for the gold -- and some measure of vindication. Davis left the 2002 Games early and angry after not skating in any individual events in short-track speedskating. Davis considered that a major snub that exacerbated a prior humiliation: Just before the Games, one skater accused two others of cheating to ensure Davis won a place on the team (an arbitrator ruled that the charges were not substantiated).
Davis and his mother, Cherie Davis, have since charged that the sport's governing body, U.S. Speedskating, tried to stymie his talents and hold back his progress, charges organization officials have vehemently denied. At one point last year, after severing ties with U.S. Speedskating over a sponsorship dispute, he declared the organization "the enemy."
But unlike short-track skating, a sport in which he wasn't considered top-rung, Davis dominates on the long-track oval, and the only matter in dispute is how many medals Davis will win. Davis, who narrowly failed to make the short-track team, prefers the thrill of that sport but loves the speed of this event. In November, he set the world record in the 1,000 meters with a time of 1 minute 7.03 seconds, knocking .15 of a second off the previous record set during the 2002 Olympics by the Netherlands' Gerard van Velde. A lanky skater, Davis still manages to pull out strong sprints to the finish.
Davis's stiffest competition could come from U.S. teammate Chad Hedrick, a former inline skating star. But Hedrick, the world record holder in the 1,500 meters, tends to be stronger in distance events.