Shani Davis is an American hero and one of the best speedskaters of all time.
Sochi doesn't change that.
Now, it's understandable that the 31-year-old is going to feel disappointed. After surprisingly finishing eighth in the men's 1,000 meter on Wednesday, he fell to 11th in the 1,500 meter on Saturday, ending his bid for a fifth individual medal.
Afterward, he talked to the media about perhaps what will weigh on him most, via NBCOlympics.com's Nick Zaccardi:
I had everything going into it, but I come away with nothing to show them and give them, to say thank you for believing in me and following me. So, I’m really disappointed, not only for myself, that I couldn’t meet my expectations, but for the people that have been tuning in, watching, view parties, things like that. I’m very disappointed.
Following Davis' defeat in the 1,000 meter, a race in which he took gold at the previous two Olympic Games, The Wall Street Journal's Joshua Robinson and Sara Germano reported the Americans were unhappy with their previously untested Under Armour suits.
As NBC's Andrew Siciliano pointed out early on Saturday, the Americans were granted their wish by the IOC to switch back to their old uniforms:
It made no difference, though, as Davis—who was coming off back-to-back silvers in the 1,500 meter—finished nearly a second behind gold medalist Zbigniew Brodka. Podium contender Brian Hansen finished seventh, keeping the Americans at zero medals through seven events.
Judging by Saturday's results, the suits turned out to be nothing more than a scapegoat and a distraction. Davis talked about the latter, via USA Today's Paul Myerberg:
"I think it was too many factors going on," Davis said. "I try to do the best I can, clearly. But there was so much stuff going on – with what's going on with this, what's going on with that, what's going to happen here. I really try not to make excuses for my performance because I worked really very hard, but I think if we can eliminate all those distractions and I could have just put that energy into performing and skating, it would have been a totally different outcome."
All things considered, the 2014 Olympics have quickly transformed from a potential medal goldmine to a controversial nightmare for Davis and the rest of the American speedskaters.
But the Chicago native has no reason to feel ashamed.
Is the sting of everything that has transpired here going to last a while? Probably. From the suits to the distractions to the lack of focus on the things that mattered—"we spent a lot of energy here focusing on things that we didn't quite necessarily have to focus on in the past," Davis said—it will be easy to play the "what if" game for a long time.
Nevertheless, when the immediate shock wears off, when excuses are done being made and when we ultimately look back on Davis' career, the 2014 Olympics are going to be far down on the list of what we remember.
Most notably, we'll remember his world records, his four Olympic individual medals and the fact he is arguably the greatest middle-distance speedskater ever.
Has Sochi been a disappointment for Davis? Absolutely. Will it be able to tarnish his unbelievable, transcendent career?
Not even close.
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