Janice Davis following Olympics despite not being there

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — You might think that Janice Davis wouldn’t want to watch the 2008 Olympic Games.

After all, the former Natchez High standout was planning on taking part in the games before an injury forced her to abandon her quest to take part in her specialty event, the 400-meter run.

No one would blame her if bitterness or sadness made her want to skip the games entirely, or at least the track and field portion of it.

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Yet there she was, screaming and jumping for joy when Michael Phelps won his seventh gold medal by one hundredth of a second, keeping up with track and field events online and rooting for anybody wearing the red, white and blue.

Yes, Davis has made the transition from athlete to cheerleader quite nicely.

“I’ve gotten over not being there myself,” Davis said. “I’ve become very patriotic. Right now, it’s all about the USA vs. Jamaica or China.”

Davis, who is currently in Miami taking classes, said she has been unable to wait to see the taped events on NBC at night and has scoured the Internet for any highlights she can find.

“I try to get it on YouTube before the copyright infringement comes and the video is taken down,” Davis said.

While she said she has closely followed swimming and gymnastics, track and field is obviously where she has the most rooting interest, especially her event, the 400 meters.

The final of that race was run Tuesday morning, Central time and shown Tuesday night on NBC.

American runner Sanya Richards from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a heavy favorite to win gold in the event, faded down the stretch and finished third.

Even without seeing the race, Davis knew what had happened and analyzed it perfectly.

“I’ve known her since my freshman year of high school,” Davis said. “I haven’t seen the race, but knowing her and her history and how she runs, she probably didn’t stick to her game plan.”

Davis said that when running the 400 meters, it’s important not to start the race too fast so you will still have something left for the final stretch. Richards didn’t do that.

“She loves winning but she gets a thrill out of setting records,” Davis said. “She totally abandoned the race plan and went out too hard. I told a friend that the only way she loses the race is if she starts out too hard a fades down the stretch. She ran a great 320 meters but there’s still 80 to go. I’ve done that before, and it’s a terrible feeling. She didn’t run to win, but ran to set a record and you never want to run that way.”

Davis has also taken great interest in the other track and field events, especially in the rivalry between the USA and Jamaican sprint teams; so much so that she got into a argument with a Jamaican classmate about which sprinting team is better.

“Jamaica and the U.S. don’t really like each other,” Davis said. “It’s a national pride thing. Jamaica wants to reign supreme in the sprints and so does the U.S. We’re all cocky athletes.”

While Davis is enjoying watching the Olympics on television, she does have the itch to be competing on the world’s biggest track and field stage.

And one particular thing makes her long to participate in this year’s Olympics more than any other.

“I wish I could be out there racing,” Davis said. “Because I want to destroy Jamaica right now.”