Shani Davis
Credit: Photograph by Alan Clarke

Age: 31
Hometown: Chicago
Best Events: 1,000 meters, 1,500 meters
Medal Count: Gold, 1,000 meters, 2006 and 2010; silver, 1,500 meters, 2006 and 2010

"There's some madness behind my methods," says Shani Davis, attempting (and failing) to explain how a video game junkie who sleeps late and eats "whatever I can get my hands on" became one of the world's most celebrated speedskaters. In 2006, the Chicago native became the first black athlete to win individual gold at the Winter Games – a hard-earned feat for a kid who had to travel to suburban Evanston for the nearest rink. "I was lucky to have a parent who wanted me to do something that might seem ridiculous to a Chicago South Sider," he says. "Man, I got destroyed. 'You figure skate. You wear tights. Why you doing that white sport?' To this day, my friends make fun of me."

In Vancouver, Davis became the first man ever to repeat victory in the 1,000-meter. "I don't want to get caught up in what I've done," he says, flashing a grin. "I just happen to be really, really good at skating."