City Watch: Root for the hometown star

Grace Johnson

Evanston prides itself on being a unique, cultural, multifaceted city-and in most cases, it’s true. In the case of Shani Davis, no Evanston resident could ever question the inspiring story of an Olympian trained within the city’s own limits.

Davis, raised on the South Side of Chicago by a single mother, joined the Evanston Speed Skating Club when he was only 6 years old and immediately started skating competitively. He later went on to become the first black speed skater on the U.S. Olympic team in 2002. Since his first Olympics, Davis has earned four medals, two of them in Vancouver where he received the gold in the 1000-meter race and silver in the 1500-meter.

Davis sets a more than fitting example, exemplifying everything Evanston strives to be. Evanston is certainly diverse, but it’s often too easy to look at the city in separate groups: the category of rich, white suburbs or the image of crime-ridden streets of West Evanston.

With Shani Davis standing in front of an international crowd, the face of Evanston is African-American, and it isn’t a poor, homeless or uneducated face. Instead it’s a triumphant, successful, unstoppable black figure that all Evanston residents, young and old, can look up to.

It’s rewarding to see the city rally around a single cause. Even while still living in Chicago, Davis was embraced by members of the speed skating club and adopted into Evanston folklore upon making his name in the national and world speed skating circuits. Davis paid his respects to the club, visiting his former coach and fellow skaters after winning his first two medals in Torino, Italy in 2006.

Evanston will have cause to rally around Davis in the future. After failing to secure the gold in the 1500-meter race, Davis vowed to compete again in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. With the promise of Davis performing again in the world spotlight, Evanston will be on the edge of its seat once more to watch its star skater.

Assistant City Editor Grace Johnson is a Medill sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]