Olympic speedskater Shani Davis knows his roots, and he uses them to continually inspire his career.
“Being born and raised in Chicago made me tough," Davis told short-track champion Apolo Ohno on the Today Show. "It made me strong. I feel like I can deal with anything. I truly believe that in my heart.”
Davis, a four-time Olympic medalist over the 1000m and 1500m, became the first African-American speed skater to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team and the first black athlete to capture individual gold in 2006.
He still owns the world records, set in 2009, in both events. Headed into this Olympics, he has high hopes and cool head.
“I just remember the days where I wasn't an Olympic champion or world champion or world record holder,’’ he told Ohno. “People always told me that I wasn't good enough, I wasn't talented enough, even called me lazy. And I still carry that stuff with me to this day.”
Asked why he trains alone, he said it's something he carries with him from his days on Chicago's South Side.
“It’s just a mentality that I’ve always had, since I was younger,” he said. “I probably learned a lot of that from you [Ohno], seeing you train. Training together, we always pushed it 100 percent. We were never ones to leave the day without knowing that we did our best. So we would go hard, go all in.”
Why skating? Davis said despite his friends making fun of him wearing tights when he first started out in the sport, he's in it for the speed.
"I always wanted to just go fast,’’ he said.
In the end, he looks back fondly on his days in Chicago and his years leading up to this moment in Sochi.
"I hold those days closest to me the most because it's about the road of getting there that I love so much."