By Larry Fine
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Double world record holder Shani Davis broke his silence at the Olympic speedskating oval on Wednesday, vowing to enjoy himself at the Winter Games after a tumultuous experience in 2006 in Turin.
Davis, something of a U.S. maverick and mystery man despite his star status as Olympic 1,000 meters champion and 1,500 silver medalist, opened up to a small group of reporters after practice.
"It's been a big day and night difference," Davis said, comparing his time in Turin to the run-up to the Vancouver Games. "I'm having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying myself and just waiting for the moment to shine."
Davis gets his first opportunity when the speedskating competition kicks off on Saturday with the men's 5,000 meters.
The 27-year-old from Chicago became the first black athlete to win an individual Winter Games gold four years ago but what should have been an exultant memory was marred by a public feud with team mate Chad Hedrick.
Hedrick had criticized Davis for not participating in the Team Pursuit event, which Davis elected not to enter well before the Games so he could concentrate on individual events.
"I think it's important for me to try and keep things positive and not deal with things that are negative," said Davis, who gave Canadian fans credit for helping create an enjoyable atmosphere.
"Maybe people are just more aware. There's more support. It's more of a positive going into it."
Davis has drifted apart from U.S. Speedskating, choosing to devise his own training regimen and handle his own marketing and publicity.
Access to the team's top skater has been very limited and U.S. Speedskating does not provide information about him, referring all queries to Team Davis by the skater's choice.
With a new, personal press attache by his side, Davis was open and personable in the informal interview session.
"I just have the mind-set, the mind frame that I'm not going to let anything negative effect my feelings toward anything," Davis said. "I'm going to be positive. I'm not going to worry about things that happened in the past.
"I'm living from this day forward. I think in order for me to have a good Games I have to go into the Games not being afraid of what's happened in the past to me.
"I have to move forward and keep telling myself I'm going to enjoy it. And so far I haven't really had to do that because it's happened so naturally."
Davis, whose best chances for gold are at his record distances of 1,000 and 1,500 meters, also plans to race the 500 meters besides a difficult test in the opening 5,000.
"I'll just do the best I can with it. It's a tough race for me. It's a little long. But I'll just have fun and do the best I can. Anything's possible. I believe that if I skate a really good race I have a chance for a medal."
Davis said he did not put too much pressure on himself.
"I've lived 27 years of my life and I have a self worth and I know what I am as person. I don't need anyone to define that for me if they're paying attention to me once every four years or just these two weeks of the Olympics.
"I already have my self definition and I'm quite happy with it."
(Editing by Jon Bramley)