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Speedskater Davis: Colbert is 'a jerk'

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP)

Stephen Colbert's Canadian-bashing isn't sitting well with at least one American speedskating star.
"He's a jerk," Shani Davis said Thursday when asked for his take on the comedian's criticism of Canadians. "You can put that in the paper." Davis declined to elaborate, making the comment while vetting potential questions from The Canadian Press before rejecting an interview request and walking away. Davis has ties to Canada from training out of Calgary in the past, and has also had past differences with U.S. Speedskating, which is now being sponsored by the comedian who hosts the "The Colbert Report." Publicists for Colbert did not respond to requests for comment. Colbert stepped into a void for the American skaters after the team was left with a $300,000 shortfall when Dutch bank DSB declared bankruptcy and pulled out of its sponsorship. He put up a fundraising link on his Web site - a similar plan helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for wounded American soldiers and their families - in exchange for becoming the skating body's primary sponsor. Soon after, Colbert used his show to aim some pointed barbs north of the border, while picking up on complaints that Vancouver Olympic officials have been limiting international athletes' access to facilities for the 2010 Winter Games. "Those syrup-suckers won't let us practice at their Olympic venues," Colbert said. "At the Salt Lake Games, we let the Canadian luge team take 100 practice runs." The issue of access to the Richmond Olympic Oval is one that resonates with the U.S. skaters, although they're more diplomatic about it than Colbert. "It's the Olympics, the point of the Olympics is to bring the whole world together and by doing that they're kind of separating themselves off from the world," said rising U.S. star Trevor Marsicano. "... It's the way it is. I'm not going to complain about it." Veteran Chad Hedrick feels the same way. "I think everybody should have equal rights to train on the ice as much as they can," the Olympic champion said. "I don't know how it's been in past Olympic Games, I've only been to one Olympics and maybe when it was in Salt Lake the ice time was more favorable to Americans, I don't know. ... "But that's part of the game." Hedrick and Marsicano both appreciate Colbert's support, even though neither was particularly familiar with his show on Comedy Central before he came on board. Hedrick hopes Colbert's fans will help bring more exposure to and increase the profile of a sport that repeatedly leads the way in terms of medals won by Americans at Winter Olympics. "We're really fortunate that he jumped on board. It's a great situation for us," Hedrick said. "We needed it financially. It's a great opportunity for U.S. Speedskating to provide things for the athletes that they wouldn't be able to provide without him. ... "As successful as we've been at the Olympics, a lot of people are unfamiliar with speedskating in America. And the money doesn't hurt at all." Marsicano agrees and is looking forward to an expected team visit from Colbert at next week's World Cup stop in Salt Lake City. "He's a good thing for U.S. Speedskating," Marsicano said.

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