SOCHI, Russia — Watching one of the most talented speedskaters the U.S. has ever produced explain why he will leave Sochi without a single individual medal was like watching a complicated and compelling movie and hating the ending.
This could not be the finale of an Olympic champion.
It’s not fair.
But if anyone knows and accepts the cruel nature of sport, it’s Davis.
He was unsentimental about the fact that sometimes the best an athlete has to offer is not good enough. He’s heartbroken by that fact.
But his pain changes nothing.
“Sometimes I feel like the best you can (do) isn’t good enough,” he said after finishing the final individual race of his Olympic career in 11th place Saturday. “But I feel like you have to look at yourself in the mirror and realize you’re not perfect, but you strive to be. That’s what I did, and I take full responsibility for my finish.”
He’s not blaming a skin suit or the location of a training camp. He admits being affected by the controversy and the questions about those things, and a part of him wishes he could skate again without those distractions.
But Davis, who has won four Olympic medals, also knows, and accepts, that in his sport, all that matters is the clock.
“I tried the best I can, and I don’t have the hardware to show for it,” he said. “At the end of the day, the paper says I’m eighth and the paper says I’m 11th. It doesn’t say because of suit or because of a lack of confidence. It just says eight and 11th. That’s what I have to deal with for the rest of my life, knowing I had the potential, that I have the talent. I’ve done the work, I’ve made the sacrifices, but I certainly couldn’t quite get what I needed to out of those things in Sochi.”
The most agonizing part of Davis’ failure to medal in Sochi is that he’s finally been embraced by his teammates, the media and most importantly the country he’s represented in four Olympic games.
“It kills me inside to know that the attention I’m getting now ... these are the kinds of things I always wanted since 2002,” he said, pausing. “I wanted to be a speedskater that the Americans knew, loved, followed and cheered for. I worked hard to get that in 2006. In 2010, I didn’t have anyone working for me in that corner. ... In 2014, I had the whole country behind me.”
“I had all kinds of really cool sponsors and people following me, and I had everything going into it. But I come away with nothing to show them and give back to them and say thank you for believing in me and following in me. I’m really disappointed not only for myself that I couldn’t meet my expectations, but also for the people who have been tuning in watching, view parties. I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t do more for them.”
Davis said his 2014 Olympic experience began unraveling after he finished eighth in the 1,000 meters.
“Most of my World Cup wins are from the 1,000,” he said. “I have two gold medals in the Olympics in the 1,000; the 1,500, I have a first, a fifth. Maybe you could say that I’m up and down, but the 1,000? That hurts.”
When he finished so far from the race in which he’s always succeeded, it made a bad situation worse.
“I think after the 1,000 meters races, it took a lot out of me, knowing that I did the best I could and it wasn’t good enough there,” said Davis, ranked No. 1 in the world at both the 1,000 and 1,500. “And not having the confidence of the 1,000, I think it carried into today. That’s just how it goes. You win some; you lose some. I just simply wasn’t good enough today.”
He said knowing that he did all he could brings him some comfort. He is meticulous about his training, even detailing it in journals.
“It makes me question some of the things that I’ve done leading up to these races,” he said. “And I’m not necessarily sure what is to blame for whatever. I know that whatever happened that day (the 1,000) took a big toll on me. And it was really hard for me to build myself and go out there and think that I’m the world’s fastest skater, when in reality I’m coming across the line in eighth.”
He may look at his training and preparation and try to figure out what went wrong. That may help him decide whether he will retire or not, but he knows it won’t change what happened in Sochi.
“I’m content, man,” he said. “This is my fourth Olympics. In 2006 and 2010 I had success, and I would have loved to have one of my last Olympic races end with a medal to be the cherry on top. I have all the bells and whistles (in my career). I just didn’t get any from Sochi.”
There is still a chance that Davis will skate the team pursuit. If he does, there is one more chance for a medal, but he’s leaving that decision up to the coaches.
He said he is unsure what’s next for him and whether it’s retirement or another year on the World Cup circuit.
“It’s done. I’m moving forward,” he said. “I’m disappointed, but that’s all I could have done. When you have these performances of 11th and eighth, you start questioning whether you still have what it takes. I think after things calm down, we’ll see what I have left in me.”
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