U.S. speedskater Davis snags gold
All that mattered this time was the color of the medal, not the color of his skin.
With a furious kick on the final lap Wednesday, Shani Davis stuck his skate across the line and won his second straight gold medal in 1,000-meter Olympic speedskating.
Four years ago at Turin, he became the first African-American athlete to win an individual gold at the Winter Games. This time, he simply wanted to be known for his skating. Period.
"When you're a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get this little thing on your back called a target," said Davis, the first male skater to win this event a second time at the Winter Games. "To go out there and win the 1,000 meters twice is truly amazing."
The Americans broke their medal drought at the Richmond Olympic Oval with a flourish, claiming not just one but two spots on the podium. Chad Hedrick, who won three medals at the 2006 games, took a surprising bronze after struggling to regain his motivation after Italy.
"I had to dig down deep and find my passion for speedskating again," the Texan said.
Davis swung both arms twice on the final backstretch, knowing he needed a little more speed to catch South Korea's Mo Tae-bum. The American found just enough, posting a time of 1 minute, 8.94 seconds.
Mo, who won gold in the 500 two days ago, settled for silver this time, 18-hundreths behind Davis. Hedrick was next in 1:09.32.
"Those last 200, 300 meters were very difficult," Davis said. "I was just trying to carry my speed. I could feel it leaving me. It doesn't matter what it looks like, just as long as you get across the line as quick as you could."
Davis pumped his fist in the air and slapped hands with the U.S. coaches on the backstretch. Then, as he coasted around near the finish line, Hedrick skated over to shake his hand firmly and pat him on the back several times.
Four years ago, their accomplishments in Italy - Davis won a gold and silver; Hedrick a medal of each color - were overshadowed by a nasty feud stemming from the team pursuit.
Davis wanted to stick with his individual events, a decision that peeved Hedrick, who believed it cost the Americans a shot at a medal.
Their animosity boiled over at a news conference after the 1,500, in which Davis finished second and Hedrick third. Hedrick brought up the team pursuit, and Davis stormed out of the room complaining that Hedrick didn't congratulate him on his gold, only the silver.
No hard feelings this time.
The two stood together on the victory stand, each holding one end of an American flag.
"Everything that Shani and I had in 2006 is behind us now," Hedrick said. "We're here. We're proud to represent our country. We're proud to put a few more medals on the table of the Americans."
Davis said these games have been so much more enjoyable than his last two Olympics. He was accused of benefiting from a fixed race to get on the short track team as an alternate in 2002, and the dispute with Hedrick certainly rubbed him the wrong way four years ago.
Now, he can't stop smiling.
"I've learned not to pay attention to things that are negative and focus on the things that matter," Davis said. "For the most part, it's been really good. It's a different type of energy now. People want me to win, whereas maybe before they didn't."
Mo held up two fingers, representing both his finish and his total haul from these games. South Korea extended its impressive showing with two golds and two silvers in the first five events.
"I could have done better," Mo said through a translator. "Shani had the greater technique in turning the corners."
Skating in the same pair with Mo, Hedrick nearly clipped a lane marker in the first turn and appeared to lose valuable time, but he's always been a strong finisher. Amazingly, he nearly caught the fading Korean at the line.
That turned out to be good enough for bronze.
Lee Kyou-hyuk, a 31-year-old from South Korea, skating in his fifth Olympics, again failed to make the medal podium. He was ninth in 1:09.92.
The Americans put all four skaters in the top 10 after being shut out of the medals through the first four events. Nick Pearson was seventh in 1:09.79, while Trevor Marsicano took 10th in 1:10.11.