Olympic speedskating champion Shani Davis returned to Evanston Thursday night for a warm welcome from fans at the Robert Crown Center rink where his skating career began.
In the middle of the ice rink was a platform with a podium and seating for honored guests and local dignitaries. More telling was the group of chairs about 30 yards away. Those seats were set aside for young members of the Evanston Speedskating Club and their families.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl noted that when Shani last visited in 2006, then Mayor Lorraine Morton had presented him with a key to the city. She quipped that the lock hadn’t changed, so this time he would get his own month and she read a proclamation naming April Shani Davis Month in Evanston.
Everyone cheered and, keenly aware that his fans had come to see more than their hero, Shani Davis pulled out his silver and gold Olympic medals. The gold medal was for the 1000 meter and the silver was for the 1500 meter. He held them high and slipped them around his neck as the crowd applauded.
When he stood beside his coach, Sanders “Sam” Hicks, founder of the Evanston Speedskating Club, the warm bond could be felt around the arena. Coach Hicks was the man who saw something special in a six-year-old boy who liked to skate fast.
Before closing the program, Davis promised that he would compete in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. He wanted another go at turning that silver medal into gold for the 1500 meter event.
Afterward he told his young fans to meet him in center’s gym where he signed autographs gave them a better look at his medals.