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American Speedskater Makes Olympic History


American Shani Davis has become the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal in Winter Olympics history. He did it in the men's 1,000 meters speed skating race Saturday evening.

The victory by Shani Davis gives the United States gold medals in all three individual men's speed skating races held thus far. And U.S. skater Joey Cheek, who won the 500 meters on Monday, took the silver medal behind Davis in the 1,000 meters.

Davis clocked a time of 1:08.89, 27-100ths of a second faster than Cheek. Dutchman Erben Wennemars took the bronze.

The 23-year-old Davis said it's been a long road to Olympic glory and he knows he's in a unique position as the first black ever to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympic Games.

"As you know, a lot of African-Americans choose to do other sports like track and field, they choose to do basketball and things like that," he said. "I chose a different route. But it's not a hard thing for me because I love what I do. I wake up every morning wanting to make myself better. I want to be the best."

And Shani Davis is respected by his competitors. The Dutch bronze medalist Erben Wennemars, has known Davis for about three years.

"I think Shani Davis is a fantastic champion," he said. "He's skated very good races and this years he's won almost every one thousand meters. And for him the pressure was also the highest it could get. He was the big favorite for it, and he succeeded and I think it's a big achievement for him. And I like his personality and I like the way he does his sport. And it's a fantastic compliment and I like him as a person, and I like him as a speed skater."

Davis is the world record holder in the 1000 meters, and he said that it was his hard work through the years that helped him win the gold medal and make history.

"It shows that even though the road is rough to get to where you're at, eventually, hopefully someday if you've worked hard enough, you'll get your chance to try to do something great. And these are one of those things," he said. "You know, things were not easy for me. I just kept on fighting because I knew deep down inside that I was a good skater. I'm not a slow skater. And I can be a competitive skater. And I just wanted to be one of the best skaters. And now I am happy that I can have that title on my name, Olympic champ. You know, it's a great thing."

Shani Davis will try to become a two-time Olympic champion when he skates in the men's 1,500 meters here on Tuesday.

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