Apparently there are people on the U.S. bobsled team who are not entirely happy that Willie Davenport is still occupying a seat in the top U.S. fourman sled.
Coach Gary Sheffield shuffled some bodies in the U.S. No. 2 sled today, and strongly suggested at a press conference that he would prefer to do the same with the No. 1 team, where Jeff Gadley and Davenport, the first blacks ever to compete in the Winter Olympics, occupy the second and third seats.
However, Sheffield said that the driver of the No. 1 sled, Bob Hickey, preferred to keep his team intact for the competition, which begins on Saturday.
Asked if there was any dissension on his team, Sheffield insisted there was not. "We want to make sure we have the best people on the start. . . If Bob Hickey feels happy, I have to feel happy too."
Davenport, contacted later, said, "I don't know who started this but we have no problems if everybody would just leave us alone. We had the second fastest start time in practice today and that's the most important thing.
"I'm going to ask the team to hold a press conference tomorrow (Tuesday) to clear this up," Davenport said. "We tried out with a team concept in mind because it's important for a sled team to become close. We made it, and we're going to stick together and I still believe we'll blow people off the mountain."
In a recent interview, Hickey said "it's important to keep the same guys together. It's like being married to somebody. It's that kind of a concept."
Howard Siler, driver of the No. 2 sled, said he thought Hickey "put Davenport on the team because he joined up early and Bobby's being loyal. I've got people better than Davenport on my team, but the reason they're No. 1 team is because Bobby's a great driver.
"I just wonder, are we here to win a medal or to be loyal to our friends? I'm loyal to my friends and I hope they're loyal to me by not standing in my way."
None of the members of the No. 1 team attended the press conference. "They chose not to show up today," Sheffield said. "That's all I want to say about that."
Dick Lavigne, who was taken out of the No. 2 sled today after training sessions, was asked if there was some resentment on the team toward Davenport, a gold medal-winning hurdler who had never competed in the bobsled until this year.
"I suppose there is," Lavigne said. "It doesn't bother me. But I would assume that there are those who feel that way.
"If you've been Alpine skiing all your life and a new kid comes in and blows your drawers away, you wouldn't like that either."
Lavigne also said, "The publicity has been unbelievable" ever since Davenport tried out for the team. When he was asked how Davenport looked in training, he said "I can't comment. I'd love to, but I can't.
"I do think U.S. No. 2 will beat the drawers off of U.S. No. 1 in the race. I think they've got more desire right now, and that's two-thirds of the ball game."
Why do they have more desire?
"I can't comment," he said.
Siler also said he was upset because Davenport had been quoted as saying bobsledding was a sport for rich white men.
"That fried our minds," Siler said. "We're white, but we're not rich."
Davenport said he had not been at the press conference because he was working on his sled.
I had permission from Sheffield," he said. "If they're upset about me going home, they're going to have to take it up with him (the coach)."