Correction: Shani Davis was never one of the five intended skaters in the relay race, so technically he never pulled out of the event. We apologize for the misstatement. –Sports Editor
The truth about the publicly emotional spat between US speedskaters Shani Davis and team captain Chad Hedrick is now clear to everyone except (apparently) Shani Davis, who hasn’t seemed to catch on yet.
This truth involves the Olympic ideals, one of which is (or ought to be) that no matter how great or famous you are there are things that are more important than yourself.
Hedrick finally got it. Davis didn’t.
Davis accepted his role as a member of the US speedskating pursuit team when he joined the US Olympic delegation. After arriving at Torino, without speaking to or consulting with the team captain (Hedrick) he withdrew from the relay event.
I assume that until that moment he had given every indication that he was going to be a part of that team. I assume that he had trained with them and had been included as part of the strategic planning that goes into such competition. His departure betrayed his commitment to his fellow US skaters and destroyed the hopes that some of them may have had to fulfill their dreams of winning an Olympic medal.
His strategy of putting himself first may or may not have been a factor in his winning his personal goal of a Gold Medal in the 1000 meter race but it clearly soured his relationship with the other team members . . . especially Hedrick.
Hedrick was put in a position where he was not only expected to show his own personal feelings but also to represent the feelings of the entire team. He chose, therefore, not to congratulate Davis with a handshake after his 1000 meter victory.
For Davis it was all about himself. His feelings were hurt. The joy of his victory was stolen from him. His demeanor after the race was seething with anger and resentment. He was, one could hope, learning that there are more important things in life than winning gold — things such as friendship, camaraderie, trust, and honor.
At the press conference following the 1500 meter race (where he silvered and Hedrick bronzed) Davis finished his statement by publicly stating how hurt he had been when Hedrick had refused to shake his hand after his victory in the 1000 meter.
Here, once again, Davis betrayed his immaturity. This was not a matter to bring up to the international press. It was a matter to be dealt with personally and quietly as one adult with another.
Davis then stood up and walked out of the room leaving Hedrick alone in shock, forced to decide whether to respond publicly to Davis or not. Hedrick, to his credit, did not attack Davis personally, but simply stated that he had felt a sense of betrayal and disappointment when Davis had quit the pursuit team.
At the medal ceremony for the 1500 race, Hedrick, as the 3rd place finisher, was introduced first. When Davis was introduced, after his applause had begun to end and just before the 1st place Italian skater was introduced, Hedrick walked across the dais, reached over and offered his hand to Davis. Davis turned in surprise, leaned away for just an instant and then took the offered hand and accepted Hedrick’s congratulations.
Yet, even after Hedrick’s gesture, Davis still didn’t seem to “get it,” being quoted as saying, “I did my best, but fell a little short,” Davis said of his silver. “To me, that’s more important than the handshake.”
Davis clearly entered the Olympics for his own glory. Hedrick was equally motivated to compete for his own glory but was also mature enough to realize that he had the responsibility of also being both a representative of his country and a member of a team of skaters whose own personal hopes and dreams were no less important than his own.
In the best interests of the Olympic games and the image of the United States, and with the realization that there would be no reconciliation or resolution of the conflict unless he initiated it, Hedrick humbled himself, swallowed his own pride and publicly extended an offer of peace to Davis.
Jesus said that, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Davis may have won a gold medal but Hedrick is an Olympian.