Shani Davis is a Chicago native, raised by his single mother, known for his prowess in two pursuits -- short-track and long-track speedskating -- and his relentless speed over short distances. He holds the world record in the 1,000 meters.
Chad Hedrick grew up in Spring, Tex., hanging out at a roller rink owned by his father. He made a fortune in inline skating before switching to long-track speedskating, in which he became known for his pure strength in grueling distance races. He holds the world record in the 10,000.
Davis and Hedrick, so different on the surface, tend to come together in one place on the ice: the 1,500.
In January 2005, Davis broke Derek Parra's three-year-old world record in the distance. Ten months later, Hedrick stole the record from Davis, dropping the mark from 1 minute 43.33 seconds to 1:42.78. The two are expected to duke it out for the gold in today's 1,500 final, which Parra -- who is going through a divorce and has struggled this season -- won at the 2002 Winter Games.
Sizing up a favorite is difficult. A year ago, Davis seemed unbeatable in the event. In the past year, Hedrick has seemed unbeatable in just about everything. The two have traded places at the top of the sport: In 2004, Hedrick ended a long Dutch run by claiming the world all-around title. Davis was second. A year later, Davis won the title and Hedrick was second.