Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mr. Davis Follows His Own Rules

Shani Davis does things his way

I always admire people who are comfortable with themselves enough to do follow their own pursuits regardless of the expectations others have of them. Sometimes this means I admire someone whose behavior I do not necessarily approve but there it is.

But no one could seriously disapprove of Shani Davis who is an African-American Olympic Speed Skater who shuns the press and just wants to skate. He does what he wants the way he wants with a great deal of class and elegance. I hope he wins all the medals he wants too!
At the World Cup meet in Heerenveen last November, Davis knew one of his most ardent supporters was celebrating a birthday. So, after winning a race, he walked over to give the fan a most unexpected present.

“He took off his medal and said, ‘That’s for you.’” Wicher Soek recalled recently in a telephone interview. “It totally swept me off my feet.”

Soek has been following Davis for years and has always loved his struggle against the odds - an African-American from the south side of Chicago growing up to become a world-class speedskater - as much as his sublime skating style.

“He is total elegance,” Soek said. “Just look the way he holds his hand on his back. No other skater does it like him.”

In Europe, they see a winning personality who just doesn’t know how to score points in the United States.

“It is the simplicity of the man,” Soek said. “He looks you up after the race, always for a chat.”

Bakker still remembers a night after a big race when Kleintje Pils was playing at a hotel close to the oval. Suddenly, he saw Davis in the crowd.

“He hung the big sousaphone around his neck, and he was all laughs,” Bakker said. “And the next day, he wins a race.”

For the Dutch, it’s a total mystery why Davis is not a hot marketing property in the U.S. The small Dutch advertising agency BKB was pleasantly surprised to find out in December that parts of Davis’ suit were still available for sponsorship.

His Dutch manager, Wietze Jongsma, knows that conventional wisdom means little to Davis. In the run-up to Vancouver, he was approached to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s blockbuster show and a children’s program in the Netherlands.

Guess which one he picked?

Yep, the children got the nod over Oprah’s couch.

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