Tuitert wins gold in 1,500, Davis takes silver

Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick were supposed to battle it out for

gold. Mark Tuitert didn’t go along with the plan.

The Dutch skater pulled off an Olympic speedskating upset of the

Americans in the 1,500 meters Saturday, relegating Davis to the

silver while Hedrick failed to even make the podium Saturday.

Davis, the world-record holder trying to add to his gold medal

in the 1,000, came around the final turn with his mouth open and

both arms swinging, trying desperately to make up the gap on

Tuitert. He finished more than a half-second behind, still good

enough for his second medal of these games and fourth of his

Olympic career.

“I don’t see it as me losing,” Davis said. “It is

silver.”

Still miffed that he’s yet to win Olympic gold in his favorite

event, Davis said he’ll be back at the 2014 Games to take another

shot at the 1,500.

“I am sure it is going to keep me in the sport,” the

27-year-old skater said.

Not Hedrick. In his final individual race, the soon-to-retire

Texan hoped to follow up a surprising bronze in the 1,000 with an

even better showing in the 1,500, believing he had an advantage at

the longer distance.

Not even close.

Hedrick collapsed on the final lap, falling farther and farther

off the leading pace before crossing the line with only the

sixth-best showing. He was more than a full second behind Tuitert’s

winning time of 1 minute, 45.57 seconds.

Davis claimed the silver in 1:46.10, while Havard Bokko of

Norway took bronze in 1:46.13.

“It was a monster race for me,” said Tuitert, who came in

ranked only fifth on the World Cup circuit at this distance.

“Shani has been winning everything, Chad was so good and then I

produce this race.”

Hedrick was reliving cruel memories of the 1,500 four years ago

in Turin, where Italy’s Enrico Fabris ruined another Davis-Hedrick

showdown by winning gold, leaving the Americans to settle for

silver and bronze.

“It’s the second time in a row that Shani and I have gotten

this race stolen from us,” Hedrick said. “We go in as heavy

favorites each time, and it is some special skater every time that

comes in.”

Tuitert, who went in the third pair from the end, watched

nervously from the infield as Hedrick skated next and Davis capped

it off in the final group, both knowing the time they had to

beat.

Hedrick got off to a surprisingly strong start, but that may

have cost him his usual finishing kick. He knew he was done a few

feet from the line, coasting across in 1:46.69.

“It couldn’t happen to a better guy. He beat me pretty good,”

Hedrick said. “For him to go out there and fight like he did is

incredible.”

Davis, who set the world record of 1:41.04 in December in the

thin air of Salt Lake City, knew he wouldn’t be able to go nearly

that fast at the sea-level conditions of the Richmond Olympic Oval.

He was only 18-hundredths behind Tuitert with two laps to go, but

wasn’t quite as strong at the end.

“I just couldn’t man up and do it,” Davis said. “I wasn’t

strong enough for the victory.”

Tuitert held both hands to his head, as if he couldn’t believe

his time had stood up to Davis, then grabbed the Dutch flag for a

victory lap while his fellow countrymen in the band, Kleintje Pils,

belted out their national anthem, “Wilhelmus.”

“I’ve had so many disappointments, so many setbacks,” Tuitert

said. “It all came together in this race.”

Davis scratched his head, looking unsure about what happened.

Still, he matched his performance from the 2006 Turin Games,

winning gold in the 1,000 and silver in the 1,500 to become only

the fourth male skater in U.S. history to earn two Olympic golds in

long-track speedskating.

South Korea’s Mo Tae-bum made a run at his third medal of the

games even though his coach didn’t think he had the stamina to hold

out on the final lap. After winning gold in the 500 and silver in

the 1,000, he led briefly before dropping back to fifth,

34-hundredths away from the podium.

Fabris didn’t come close to defending his gold medal. He was

10th, nearly 1 1/2 seconds off the winning time.

As for the other Americans, Trevor Marsicano was 15th and Brian

Hansen 18th.

After collecting himself, Davis seemed satisfied with his

performance, smiling as he coasted around the track, waving to the

crowd.

Hedrick could barely stand upright, gasping for breath and

swatting at his legs as if he couldn’t believe they let him

down.

Davis might have contended for another medal in team pursuit,

but will sit out that event. So, his Olympics are over.

Hedrick will skate in the pursuit, giving him one last chance to

join Eric Heiden as the only American men to win five medals on the

big oval.

Heiden’s, of course, were all gold.

After that, retirement beckons for the 33-year-old former inline

champion from Texas. He had plenty of success after he traded his

wheels for blades.

“I leave the ring today. I have no shame,” Hedrick said. “I

fell short today, but I left it all out there.”