On February 18, 2006, Shani Davis becomes the first Black athlete to win an individual gold medal in Winter Olympics history, capturing the men’s 1,000-meter speedskating race. American Joey Cheek wins the silver medal at the event at the Games in Turin, Italy.
Davis, 23, made history with a time of 1 minute, 8.89 seconds. Chad Hedrick, Davis’ American rival, finished sixth.
“I’m one of a kind,” Davis told the media. “I’m a different type of person. I have a different charisma. A lot of people don’t understand me.”
Hedrick criticized Davis for not skating in the team pursuit event, a competition for the first time at the Winter Olympics. “I’m part of Team USA,” he told reporters. “I don’t care about how it’s going to affect my individual race. I’m part of the team.”
“If the shoe was on the other foot,” Davis countered, “would he have skated the team pursuit? We’ll never know.”
Four years later, at the Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Davis repeated as Olympic champion in the 1,000-meter speedskating. The Chicago native also earned a silver medal in the 1,500-meter speedskating race at the Games in Turin and Vancouver.
“People misread us (in 2006),” Hedrick said at the 2010 Games about the rivalry with Davis. “We just wanted to win. The other stuff is now old news.”
Davis retired in November of 2019.