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Olympian Shani Davis 'Hit a Wall' in Failed Bid to Win Third Straight Gold

By Benjamin Woodard | February 13, 2014 9:02am
 Shani Davis races Wednesday at the Sochi Olympic Games.
Shani Davis races Wednesday at the Sochi Olympic Games.
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Getty Images/Quinn Rooney

ROGERS PARK — Even though Rogers Park's resident Olympian, Shani Davis, didn't make a historic three-peat victory in the 1,000 meter speed skating race Wednesday, his friends and fans said he's still hungry to win a gold in Sochi.

"He's such an intense competitor and he wants to win, so he's obviously upset with the result," said Wale Kadiri, 38, a childhood friend and fellow skater. "But that's typical Shani — when he doesn't win, he's not happy."

Davis placed eighth Wednesday morning in the 1,000 meter race he had won two times before, clocking a time 0.73 seconds behind winner Stefan Groothuis of the Netherlands.

If Davis had won, he would have been the first male speedskater to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in a single event.

Kadiri — who gathered with others at Rogers Park's Sol Cafe Thursday night to watch the race in primetime, even though they knew the race's results — said the "good thing" about Davis' loss was that it "fuels him to do better."

And he'll have two more tries to win a gold: in Saturday's 1,500 meter, a race in which he's won two silver medals, and in the men's team pursuit.

Kadiri said he watched the race online early Wednesday and spoke to Davis shortly after.

"It was almost like he hit a wall with a lap to go. I almost knew it before the race was over," he said. "I know he put his all into getting a medal today."

In Sochi, Davis told reporters, "I just got my ass kicked.

"I was skating hard. And it just wasn't there," he said.

Valerie Goldstein, 32, a speed skater who also trained with Davis in Evanston, said she "was a little bit disappointed" with the race's result, but confident Davis would "do great in the 1,500."

"I am so proud of him," she said.

Former Olympian Diane Simpson-Bundy, who competed in the 1988 Olympic Games as a rhythmic gymnast, also came out to the Sol Cafe Wednesday to show her support.

"He's been so successful and worked so hard," she said. "He had back to back victories and a couple silver medals, and it's really incredible. It's every kid's dream."

She also praised Davis' willingness to give back to the skating community and to inspire a younger generation to reach for Olympic-sized achievements.

"That's what I'm really excited about, what I think is a testament what he has done as an athlete," she said. "It's not only about winning the medals. It's about teaching people and inspiring people and giving them a chance."

But could this year's games be the last for 31-year-old Davis?

"After today, I doubt it," Kadiri said. "I know he doesn't want to go out like that. He's such an intense competitor. When he doesn't win, it just lights that flame and it burns that much hotter."

Davis spent much of his early childhood in Hyde Park but moved to Rogers Park in seventh grade to be closer to a training facility in Evanston.