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Category: Shani Davis

Shani Davis is not an Olympian?

Shani At least that is what you would think if you looked at the list of names of the 2010 Olympic long-track team in U.S. Speedskating's 2010 Olympic Media Guide.

Shani Davis is, of course, on the team.

He is favored to win at least two medals, with a good chance at gold in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters.

But as part of a never-ending feud with the speedskating federation, Team Davis made it very clear to federation officials that they did not want Davis, the 2006 Olympic champion, in the media guide.

Someday Team Davis may realize how much money in endorsement and sponsorship opportunities its attitude may have cost him over the years of his brilliant career.

Apparently, it doesn't care.

-- Philip Hersh in Vancouver

Photo: Shani Davis. Credit: George Frey / Associated Press


Winter Games about to spring into action

A friend from the East Coast who had read the weather report for Vancouver, Canada, just called and asked whether he should pack a Hawaiian shirt for his trip to the Winter Olympics.

I told him to pack two.

Vansnow

There's a bit of hyperbole in that, of course, but the last thing one feels after arriving in the host city of the Winter Games that open Feb. 12 is winter.

It's spring here, with temperatures in the high 40s heading for the low 50s, and it's also warm and rainy (about 40 degrees) at Whistler, where the alpine and sledding events are to be held.

The 10-day forecasts foresee little change, which could mean poor snow conditions, especially on mountains where the alpine ski courses start at only a mile high. It could also mean fog, which means delays, which means a nightmare for broadcasters.

Everyone knew that was the risk of having the Winter Olympics in this gloriously beautiful city because of its ocean-tempered climate.

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Shani Davis will not compete in every individual speedskating event at Olympics

Shani American speedskater Shani Davis, who is favored to win multiple gold medals at next month's Winter Olympic Games, will not be competing in all five individual events.

Davis had initially planned to become the first American since Eric Heiden to skate in all five individual events. However, a U.S. speedskating official told the Associated Press today that Davis backed out of the 10,000 meters before the Jan. 17 entry deadline. Jonathan Kuck will take Davis' place in the 10,000 meters.

"I'm sure Shani knew already that doing all five was a big thing," said Guy Thibault, high-performance director at U.S. speedskating. "Looking realistically at his chances of doing good in that distance, he didn't really feel it was essential to skate."

Davis, who became the first black athlete to win an individual Winter Olympics gold medal in 2006, is the favorite in the 1,500 and 1,000 meters. He is considered as having an outside chance at earning a medal in the 500 and 5,000 meters.

-- Austin Knoblauch

Photo: Shani Davis. Credit: George Frey / Associated Press


Stephen Colbert talks with Dick Ebersol, 'competes' against Shani Davis

With the Winter Olympics less than a month away, it was time for Comedy Central show host Stephen Colbert to test his dedication to the Games.

NBC Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol appeared on "The Colbert Report" on Wednesday and asked Colbert if he'd like to be a part of the network's Olympics coverage. Colbert said he wouldn't mind as long as he got the right title: "I kind of like host of 'The Tonight Show.'"

You can watch the entire exchange (including Ebersol's funny plea to the Colbert Nation) on the video below:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Dick Ebersol
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

While Ebersol gave the comical pundit permission to be a part of NBC's Olympics coverage (they don't give out those NBC sweaters to just anyone), Colbert's dream of making the U.S. speedskating team was shattered by Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis. As you may recall, these two have shared a tumultuous past. Check out the video:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Skate Expectations - Speedskating Race - Shani Davis
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

-- Austin Knoblauch

Blogging in the new year: More Olympic TV coverage, more laughable figure skating scores

Happy new year!

Only 5 1/2 weeks to the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

And it's already clear that Olympic junkies will have no trouble getting their TV fix this February.

The flagship Olympic network, NBC, will have about the same amount of original programming coverage (121 hours) as it did at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. The NBC Universal cable networks that boosted the total Turin coverage to 416 hours will also have a significant presence.

And Universal Sports, the Olympic network within the Olympic network that was only an Internet operation four years ago, will announce Monday that it has programmed five hours daily of live news, talk and information during the entire Feb. 12-28 Vancouver Winter Games.

The Universal programming begins with a 90-minute news center. That will be followed by half an hour of highlights from presentations and concerts at medal ceremonies; a half-hour "Meet the Olympic Press"; a one-hour replay of the news center; a 30-minute preview and review show; and a "Vancouver Figure Skating Hour."

(Full disclosure: I will be among the panelists on "Meet the Olympic Press.'')

There will also be continuous news updates. But no live or delayed action from the same day's events; that belongs to NBC.

Depending on Vonn

Other than Lindsey Vonn and her family, no one was happier than NBC Sports & Olympics chairman Dick Lindsey VonnEbersol to learn the skier was not seriously injured in her crash last week.

Vonn is clearly the marquee athlete in NBC's mind, and her expected presence in all five alpine events gives the network a chance to create a miniseries out of her races.

But Ebersol has no intention of building Michael Phelps-like expectations for Vonn. The NBC boss knows weather and changes in course conditions create too many variables in skiing results. "There are,'' Ebersol told me, "no 5-foot waves all of a sudden in one lane of a swimming pool.''

On paper, Vonn is a solid favorite in downhill and super-G, even money in super combined and a medal contender in slalom. If she leaves Vancouver with a single gold medal, her Olympics will have been a resounding success.

The Shani Davis mystery

It would be nice to know why speedskater Shani Davis changed his mind about skating team pursuit at the Olympics.

At the mid-December World Cup in Salt Lake City, the 2006 Olympic champion said he would be focusing in Vancouver on the 1,000 and 1,500 meters and the team pursuit. "Those three,'' Davis said.

Davis apparently changed his mind before the Dec. 24 deadline for skaters to declare their Olympic intentions to U.S. Speedskating. He declined to be in the four-skater pool for team pursuit, preferring to compete in all five individual events, even though he would have had a great chance to win gold in pursuit but is at best a longshot for a medal in the 500, 5,000 and 10,000.

Although Davis has not commented publicly on that decision, it is possible that he simply thought team pursuit would be too much of a distraction, especially given the controversy that erupted at the 2006 Olympics when he opted out of consideration for the event. All that history probably would have been rehashed ad nauseam.

And there could have been more controversy if Davis joined the team pursuit selection pool, then felt compelled not to race in Vancouver for any number of legitimate reasons.

Tim Burke hype

It's time to give some perspective to Tim Burke's having become the first U.S. biathlete ever to lead the World Cup overall standings in the sport.

Burke's achievement is noteworthy, but it would be a stretch to say it makes him a strong contender to become the first U.S. medalist in biathlon.

Had biathlon legend Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway not skipped the last three World Cup races, he almost certainly would be the overall leader.

Although Burke finished second and third in races at this season's first World Cup, his best finish at a world championship is a seventh in 2007. At last year's worlds, his best was an 11th.

The three most celebrated World Cup events are upcoming: at Oberhof, Germany, this week, followed by Ruhpolding, Germany and Anterselva, Italy. Should Burke produce several top-six results in those races, it would be appropriate to crank up the hype for him.

Evgeny Plushenko Posing with Evgeny Plushenko

Just what a joke the new scoring system in figure skating has become was apparent in the scores that judges gave 2006 Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko at the recent Russian Championships.

Plushenko got 100.09 points in the short program -- nearly 10 points more than the best "official'' score in history -- despite a performance he called "far from perfect,'' with a flawed landing on a triple lutz and his usual weak, lugubriously slow spins. Then he got 171.50 -- which would be No. 2 on the all-time list -- for a free skate with five clean triple jumps (and a quad), more poor spins (he risks being arrested for loitering on the combination spin) and a lot of posing.

It makes no difference that scores at national events are not considered for the all-time lists. Making a mockery of them creates a mess where other national judges feel compelled to boost their skaters by giving equally ludicrous scores.

In his comeback after a three-year absence, Plushenko has skated only in Russia (two domestic, one international event) and received overinflated marks every time. It will be interesting to see what kind of scores he gets at the European Championships this month in Tallinn, Estonia.

-- Philip Hersh

Top photo: Lindsey Vonn leaves the slopes with her arm in a sling after a Dec. 28 giant slalom crash in Austria. Nothing broke, but Vonn is skiing with a brace on her arm. Credit: Marco Trovati / AP.

Bottom: Evgeny Plushenko strikes a pose in a Grand Prix event this season. Credit: Yuri Kadobnov / Getty Images.


New sponsor, new website, same old speed have Davis on track for Olympics

Shanibkb
(Shani Davis sporting a new sponsor's logo as he skates in the World Cup at Salt Lake City last weekend.  AP / Colin E. Braley)

Chicago's Shani Davis heads into the 2010 Olympics with everything in place to have an excellent shot at three gold medals in long track speedskating.

Davis utterly dominated the fall World Cup circuit in the 1,000 meters (four wins in four events) and 1,500 (four wins, one second and a world record in five races).  He won gold (1,000) and silver (1,500) at those distances in the 2006 Olympics.

After last weekend's World Cup event in Salt Lake City, where he broke his own world record in the 1,500 and nearly broke his own world record in the 1,000, Davis also reaffirmed his intention to skate team pursuit at the Vancouver Games.  A trio of Davis, Chad Hedrick and Trevor Marsicano would be almost certain medalists.

Davis also has made the Olympic team in the 500 and 5,000 meters but he said in Salt Lake the 1,000 and 1,500 "take my priority ... I'm really excited for those races, as well as the team pursuit. Those three.''

And the day he surpassed the 1,500 mark, there was an announcement on Davis' new website (www.shanidavis.org) that a Dutch company BKB, had become one of his sponsors. (The logo appears on the photo -- above -- from the Salt Lake meet).

BKB, according to the announcement, "develops campaigns for government, businesses and NGOs and advises on anything from business communication and internal change processes to image management.'' This is the first time BKB has sponsored an athlete or sporting activity.

The announcement also says:

"Davis is an extremely committed and talented sportsman, a unique and powerful personality in the world of speed skating,'' says BKB director Alex Klusman.  BKB feels strongly connected to Davis’ unconventional style both on and off the track. "Shani follows his own unique path, he is authentic and progressive, and an inspiring example to us all," Klusman adds.

Actemium, the other personal sponsor with a logo on Davis' skin suit, is a French company that works with European industry to build, improve or optimize production, according to its website.

The World Cup circuit resumes after the Olympics, when athletes can't advertise personal sponsors on their uniforms, and the logo that counts is USA.

-- Philip Hersh


Stephen Colbert endorsement has fast effect on U.S. Speedskating coffers

The deal all but fell into U.S. Speedskating's lap.

And it quickly has made the sport's athletes feel more confident they won't be lapped by the competition in this Olympic year for financial reasons.

I'm talking about the fundraising arrangement between the Colbert Report and the speedskating federation, making the Colbert Nation the official sponsor of U.S. Speedskating.

It was announced Nov. 2 on the show, barely a week after the U.S. media -- me among them -- reported that the collapse of Dutch bank DSB had left a $300,000 hole in the federation's budget with the 2010 Winter Olympics on the horizon.  (The deficit actually was bigger, as DSB's contract gave U.S. Speedskating $350,000 in cash, of which $50,000 went directly to athletes and $300,000 to federation programs.)

Host Stephen Colbert told viewers to send donations to U.S. Speedskating through www.colbertnation.com. He promoted the effort again last Thursday with an appearance by 2006 Olympic speedskating champion Joey Cheek, who played along with a Colbert riff about lambasting Canada for its decision to limit U.S. athletes' training time on the 2010 Vancouver oval.  The segment (below) ended with cheers of "U-Ice-A!''

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
On Notice/Dead to Me - Canadian Iceholes
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor U.S. Speedskating

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Rules leave uncertainty in speedskating team pursuit selection

An update to the Shani Davis team pursuit situation now that U.S. Speedskating officials have taken a closer look at their 2010 Olympic selection rules:

Even if Davis is offered one of the five team pursuit spots on the World Cup circuit today and declines it, that does not definitively rule him out of skating team pursuit at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The U.S. Speedskating rules say the four Olympic team pursuit members may or may not be from the five team pursuit members selected for the fall World Cup events.

There appears to be a Catch-22 in the situation, though.

The rules also say the Olympic team pursuit members will be chosen, in part, based on performances in the fall World Cups.

If Davis chooses not to skate pursuit on the fall World Cups, he would have no such performances as selection criteria.

Forget all these scenarios. The best thing for everyone involved would be for U.S. Speedskating and Davis to give a definitive yes or no about team pursuit today and not leave uncertainty that could cause a repeat of the 2006 Olympic controversy on this very issue.

-- Philip Hersh


Controversy shouldn't pursue Shani Davis again

Shani2
Shani Davis skating to second place in the 1,500 meters Saturday in the U.S. World Cup team selection meet.  He has made the team in two events already. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

By Philip Hersh

MILWAUKEE -- The only question left for Olympic speedskating champion Shani Davis of Chicago to answer at the long track World Cup team selection meet that ends Sunday is the one that led to an enormous controversy at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

And that is whether he wants to be considered for the team pursuit event at the 2010 Olympics.

Davis, 27, who has shown again the last four days that he is the country's preeminent speedskater, must tell U.S. Speedskating officials Sunday whether he wants to be in the five-man pool for the team pursuit, four of whom will be selected for the 2010 Olympics in the event. (Three skate in the race.)

Saturday, after he finished second to Chad Hedrick in the 1,500 meters by 2/100ths of a second, Davis was asked what he intented to tell U.S. Speedskating about his interest in the team pursuit.

"We'll just have to see,'' Davis said.  "I can't predict the future.''

That seemed to sound like a no, but one thing is certain: No matter what Davis decides, the current U.S. Speedskating leadership won't hang him out to dry the way their predecessors did in 2006.  Instead, they intend to make a public statement of support for his choice.

Although Davis told the federation well before the 2006 Olympics began that he did not want to skate the pursuit, preferring to concenrate on his individual events, its officials never corrected reports that he had chosen to withdraw at the last minute.  That left him open to a firestorm of criticism, especially when Hedrick accused Davis of betrayal for not skating the pursuit, saying Davis' decision cost Hedrick and the U.S. team a gold medal.

Hedrick would like Davis to on the pursuit team next February but he too will simply accept whatever Davis prefers to do.

"I would love for him to be part of it,'' Hedrick said.  "If he wants to, we're going to have a great team.  If he doesn't, we're still going to have some great skaters to fill that spot.

"There would be nothing better than for him to want to be a part of it.  Gold medals are hard enough to win, and we've got one sitting right in front of us.''

The way both skated Saturday, either could wind up with gold in the 1,500.  And the third finisher, Trevor Marsicano, could make it a U.S. sweep in Vancouver.

Hedrick won in one minute, 44.47 seconds, shaving 1/100th from the Pettit Center track record Davis set a year ago.  Davis clocked 1:44.49.  Both were well under the time of 1:46:17 in which Davis won the event in the 2009 World Single Distance Championships last March on the 2010 Olympic oval, where the ice conditions are similar to here.

"That's a big message we're delivering to the whole world by skating 1:44s in October,'' Davis said.

And the effect of that message on the U.S. skaters' rivals?

 "I think they are going to be pretty scared,'' Davis said.  ``In all fairness, I think they are going to be pretty afraid.''

Davis won Thursday's 5,000 against Hedrick by 2/100ths of a second.  Davis also finished third in the 500 and won the first of the two races in the 1,000.  The world team meet finishes Sunday with the second 1,000 (the winner is based on the better of the two times) and the 10,000.  Davis has qualified for the World Cup team in the 500 and 1,500 and is a lock to make it in the 1,000 and the 5,000/10,000 combo.

Each country gets Olympic spots based on results in the five World Cup meets this fall.

"I'm stronger and faster than I have ever been in my life,'' Davis said.

That says something for a guy who has won Olympic gold and silver medals, world all-around and sprint titles, world single distance titles and set multiple world records.

To Hedrick, beating Davis also said something.

"To beat a guy of that stature, who was so consistent last year. . . . I'm trying to work my way back to the top, and that's a big step for me,'' Hedrick said.

Hedrick won a medal of each color at the 2006 Olympics.  He was third and Davis second in the Olympic 1,500, but their achievements were subsumed in the controversy Hedrick started.

"I think it would be a great story for him and I to enjoy (the 2010 Olympics),'' Hedrick said.  ``I feel like last time we worked so hard for America to be proud of us and everything happened and it went south from there.  I hope everyone enjoys it a little more than they did last time.''

Davis agreed.

"I would love to enjoy an Olympics,'' Davis said.  ``One out of my three would be nice.''

In 2002, Davis' selection to the Olympic short track team was mired in controversy that also was not of his doing. He did not compete in those Winter Games.

"Let's just say I haven't had the best Olympics, having fun-wise,'' Davis said.  ``Every day, I'm having more and more fun.  I enjoy the level of competition and going out there trying to be the best I can be.''

He is already the sport's gold standard.

-- Philip Hersh


Skater Shani Davis wins another Oscar

Shani2

Chicago's Shani Davis has won speedskating's Oscar for his performances at the Utah Olympic Oval in March.

Davis was given the sport's Oscar Mathiesen award for setting world records in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter long-track races on successive days.  The award, which Davis first won in 2005, honors the late Norwegian skater who won five world all-around titles and set multiple world records.

Three other U.S. skaters -- Chad Hedrick (2004), Bonnie Blair (1992) and Eric Heiden (1977-1980) have won the Oscar, which celebrated its 50th anniversary presentation this year.

Davis' 2009 season also included the overall title at the World Sprint Championships, allowing him to join Heiden as the only man to have won sprint and all-around titles; gold and bronze medals at the World Single Distance Championships; and World Cup season titles in two events.

He won gold and silver medals at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Shani Davis in one of his Oscar efforts, setting a world record in the 1,000 meters March 7 in Kearns, Utah. Credit: Associated Press / Charlie Neibergall


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