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Silent Shani: Davis finishes 7th in 1,000 at 5th Olympics

February 23, 2018

Shani Davis of the U.S. waves after the men's 1,000 meters speedskating race in what is believed to be his last Olympic race, at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Shani Davis let his skating do his talking in his last event at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The four-time Olympic medalist finished seventh in the 1,000 meters on Friday, waved to the fans inside Gangneung Oval and disappeared below the ice.

Whether Davis had just skated in his fifth and final Olympics at age 35 remains to be seen.

He declined to speak to media when asked to by a U.S. Speedskating spokesman and instructed his sometime-coach Tom Cushman of the American staff not to talk to reporters either.

Davis’ time in Pyeongchang involved a mix of controversy and public silence.

He declined to attend the opening ceremony after losing a coin toss to decide the U.S. flag bearer in a process he said was handled “dishonorably.” His tweet about it implied race might have been an issue, but he chose not to explain further.

Davis was assailed online in what became one of the few controversies of the games.

He finished 19th in the 1,500, his only other event in South Korea.

He briefly talked to reporters after that race, saying, “The ice is super-fast. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.”

However, when questions turned to his tweet about the tie-breaking procedure used to choose the flag bearer, Davis said he only wanted to focus on skating queries.

Davis skated his signature distance in 1 minute, 8.78 seconds. He still holds the 1,000 world record of 1:06.42 set nine years ago in Salt Lake City, Utah.

After coming off the ice Friday, Davis dodged waiting reporters and took another route to the locker room. Athletes are required to walk through the media mixed zone after their events whether they talk or not, and those who don’t can be subject to sanction by the International Olympic Committee.

Davis was one of three Americans to finish in the top 10 in the 1,000. Joey Mantia was fourth and Mitch Whitmore was 10th.

“It’s incredible,” U.S. coach Matt Kooreman said of Davis’ result. “I think Shani is a skating genius and he’s a legend of our sport.”

Davis was the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal in a Winter Games when he won the 1,000 in 2006 in Torino, a feat he repeated four years later in Vancouver. He owns a pair of silvers from the 1,500, too.

“The way that he’s been able to consistently be an elite skater is one of the most impressive things,” Kooreman said.

What the future holds, including a possible sixth Olympics in 2022, is known only to Davis.

“He could if he wants to,” Kooreman said, “but I don’t know.”

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