Shani Davis wins second consecutive Olympic gold in 1,000-meter speedskating; Chad Hedrick takes bronze
Thursday, February 18, 2010
RICHMOND, B.C. -- The man smiled and smiled and smiled. Speedskater Shani Davis looked like he had just walked into a surprise party. For the entire U.S. Olympic team, a giant party was exactly what this day at the Winter Games had turned into. Davis, who had just claimed the second of three U.S. gold medals and the third of six overall won Wednesday, skated around the Olympic speedskating oval Wednesday with his arms raised, accepting hugs, handshakes and high fives.
"It's my moment," Davis said later. "It's my party . . . I can celebrate; I can dance; I can do whatever I want. I earned it."
He did indeed earn the gold in the men's 1,000 meters, overcoming heavy expectations and enormous pressure to become the first man to repeat as the Olympic champion in the event -- but the party wasn't just his. Adding to the night's luster was the surprising appearance of U.S. teammate Chad Hedrick on a lower step of the medal podium. Hedrick, not favored in the race, won the bronze medal behind South Korea's Mo Tae-Bum.
"Nobody expected me to leave here with a medal today," Hedrick said. But "I don't wake up every morning for sixth place."
Hours after Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso won the gold and silver in the women's downhill and before U.S. snowboarders Shaun White and Scotty Lago claimed the gold and bronze in the men's halfpipe, Davis and Hedrick shared their celebration. Davis handed Hedrick a corner of an American flag someone had handed him, and the two held it jointly on the medal stand, Davis throwing his arm over the shoulder of his once-bitter rival. Wednesday, they looked like nothing more than joyous teammates, both flashing high-watt smiles.
Davis won the event in 1 minute 8.94 seconds skating in the last of 20 groups of skaters; Mo, who had been paired with Hedrick in the 16th pair, finished in 1:09.12. Hedrick clocked a 1:09.32.
"It makes it a little more exciting to see two Americans on top of that podium," Hedrick said.
At the last Olympic Games, Davis won two medals and Hedrick three, but they feuded publicly after Hedrick lashed out at Davis for not participating in the team pursuit. This year has been different.
"This just signifies what it's all about," Hedrick said. "Him and I are so proud to be Americans. We came here to be the best.
"Me congratulating him after the race, and him and I getting together and carrying the flag, that shows people misread us . . . Shani and I really respect each other as athletes, and what happened the last time is old news. We felt like our parade was rained on last time . . . I hope people will look at us in a different light, and say those people are great athletes rather than, who wants to fight who?"
There are very few safe bets in the world of winter sports, with ice and snow and varying weather conditions a constant threat to topple even the biggest stars, but Davis appeared to be close to a sure thing Wednesday. Since winning gold at the Turin Winter Games, he has been the World Cup champion every year. He holds the world record and won the 2009 World Sprint Championships in Moscow.
His dominance has been so overwhelming, a cluster of orange-clad Dutch fans in a corner of the arena held up a sign in support of Stefan Groothuis that singled out the American star: "DAVIS YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!" the sign, partly in Dutch, began.