SOCHI, Russia — With a chance to make history as the oldest Olympic champion in an Alpine event, 36-year-old Bode Miller came up short in Saturday’s men’s downhill, finishing eighth.
On Monday, Shaun White, the odds-on-favorite to become the first U.S man to win gold in the same event at three consecutive Winter Olympics, slid on the halfpipe instead and finished just off the podium, in fourth.
Wednesday at the 2014 Games, Shani Davis will attempt to snap this mini-streak of high-profile American letdowns when he contests his signature event, the 1,000 meters. With a victory, he’d make history as the first male speedskater to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics.
To date, Sochi’s gleaming Adler Arena has been the site of triumph for the Netherlands. The Dutch have the swept two men’s events, winning all six medals in the 5000 meters and 500. It’s no small irony that the bulk of seats in the 8,000-seat arena are orange.
Davis ended up 24th in Monday’s 500, the shortest of speedskating’s long-track events. But he typically uses the distance as a training session to gird for the 1000, which he considers “his race.”
At 31, Davis holds the world record at the distance (one minute, 06.42 seconds, set in March 2009) and is its two-time defending Olympic champion. This season, he has won three of the four World Cup races at the distance.
Davis became the first black athlete to win an individual gold at a Winter Olympics with his triumph in the 1,000 at the 2006 Turin Games. The Chicago-reared skater, who started on roller skates as a child, has gone on to win three more Olympic medals — successfully defending his gold in Vancouver and claiming silvers in the 1,500 in 2006 and 2010.
With a medal of any color Wednesday, he would tie Eric Heiden and Chad Hedrick for the most Olympic speedskating medals (five) by an American man.
Based on this season’s results, Davis will face his stiffest challenge from fellow American Brian Hansen, Canada’s Denny Morrison and Michel Mulder of the Netherlands, who won gold in the 500 earlier in the week.