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WINTER OLYMPICS

Shani Davis is accentuating the positive in Vancouver

The world's premier long-track speedskater says he is having fun and refuses to let negativity ruin his experience in the Winter Olympics.

February 12, 2010|By Brian Hamilton

Reporting from Richmond, Canada — Shani Davis has a glow about him these Winter Games, and this is no exaggeration. Not after a Tokyo television crew blasted him with an industrial-strength spotlight during an interview, a flash that looked like a signal flare set off behind the backstage curtain.

Then Davis rounded the corner, the shine remaining.

With a wide and easy smile, the world's premier long-track speedskater gleefully bragged on a souvenir poster featuring the Pokemon character Pikachu. He freely labeled this Olympics experience as a "day and night" change for the better compared to 2006 in Turin, Italy. Davis can't be bothered, and this time, no one is complaining.

"I just have the mind-set that I'm not going to allow anything negative to affect my feeling towards anything," Davis said. "I'm going to be positive. I'm not going to worry about things that happened in the past. I'm living from this day forward."

As far back as qualifying for the 2002 Winter Games, controversy swirled that Apolo Ohno and Rusty Smith held back in a 1,000-meter race to allow Davis to make the short-track team. (Davis left the Salt Lake City Games after the opening ceremony.)

Then in Turin, the team pursuit controversy dogged Davis after U.S. officials named him as a substitute for a team event he wasn't even eligible to be a part of.

But Davis says he's beyond all that.

"In order for me to have a good Games, I have to go into the Games not being afraid of what's happened in the past to me, or the misconception, or anything like that," he said.

The approach begins with Davis, but probably requires friendly context to flourish. In that, the flood of notoriety brought about by gold and silver medals in Turin actually may be working for him instead of taxing his preference to remain "a private kind of guy," as he labeled himself in a radio interview this week.

People know Davis now. Maybe not intensely, but at least enough to comprehend what he could accomplish in these Winter Games.

"I think definitely there's more support and it's more of a positive going into it," Davis said.

Said U.S. teammate Nick Pearson: "He's been the same to all of us. He's just one of the team members. He's always enjoying himself, I think. He always seems to be having fun."

Davis' menu for these Olympics remains unchanged. He'll be the favorite in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter races and also compete in the 5,000- and 500-meter events.

He says he's enjoying the ride, even the uproarious "Colbert Report" skit in which he bests host Stephen Colbert in a race for a spot on the Olympic squad. This after calling Colbert a "jerk" during a World Cup meet in December, ostensibly over Colbert's mock feud with Canada.

But Davis laughed this week about the skit, in which, among other highlights, he has the ditty "Ain't Nothing Gonna Hold Me Down" as a ring tone. This is Davis' new tack: Merrily mixing Men at Work and play.

"That was really cool to actually meet Colbert and get to know him a little bit better as a person, and understand what he does as a comedian," Davis said. "It was a really genius skit.

"I'm happy I was a part of it."

bchamilton@tribune.com

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