Shani Davis Sets His Sights On a Gold Saturday!

Later they moved to the north side of the city to be closer to Evanston’s rink. The long car rides were over, but Davis’s sport still wedged him between two worlds. In Evanston he was one of only a few African-American skaters on the ice. In Chicago he was the kid who didn’t play basketball or football.

In 1996, the summer Davis turned 14, he watched his two worlds collide. Andrew Young, a white speedskater from Evanston whom Davis knew, was murdered in the Rogers Park area not far from where Davis lived. Young and his twin brother had cruised to the corner of Howard and Clark Streets where they got into a verbal altercation with a young man who turned out to be a new recruit for the Latin Kings gang. Within moments, in broad daylight, the gang member pulled out a handgun and fired. Young died in his brother’s arms. It shook Davis badly. “My friends were getting shot,” he says.

In his junior year Davis was ranked high enough nationally to be accepted into the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, where he would also attend the local high school. He would get the training he needed—and get out of Chicago’s big-city schools with their big-city problems. But Lake Placid had its own troubles for Davis.

On one of his first days there, Davis called to tell his mother that some of the speedskaters had trashed his room. Not long afterward, Davis was practicing on the rink and within his earshot several skaters started “talking trash,” Cherie says. “They were talking about what they do to black people back home and referring to the N word,” she says. Eventually, the skater who’d instigated the conversation wrote Davis an apology letter—Cherie still has it. But there were other incidents with racial implications. When the Davises felt officials at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center and U.S. Speedskating, the national governing body for the sport, weren’t supportive enough, relations between them soured.

After Davis skipped an English class at Lake Placid High School, U.S. Speedskating pulled him out of the program. Cherie says she got the word two days before the program was to end anyway, and she’d already had his plane ticket home booked. “I asked if he could just stay two more days,” she says. “They told me no. That they’d call the police or send him to a shelter. It was horrible.”

Asked now about his experience with Davis, Tracy Lamb, associate director at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center, simply says Davis “worked very hard” during his time there and was with a number of stellar athletes.

Article Comments