SOCHI, Russia — No one was more baffled by Shani Davis’ failure to finish on the podium in the 1,000 meters than the speedskater himself.
“There’s no excuse, man,” Davis said. “There is nothing physical that went wrong. I just simply didn’t have the speed on the lap, and that’s something I’ve always had over my competitors.”
Davis said that the winner, Stefan Groothuis, Netherlands, had tremendous top speed, a trait that usually belongs to the Chicago native.
“That’s a part of the race that I usually shine,” Davis said. “But today for some reason, for some, I wasn’t able to do it.”
Groothuis’ winning time was 1:08.39, while Canada’s Denny Morris earned silver with a time of 1:08.43. Netherlands’ Michael Mulder claimed bronze with a finish time of 1:08.74. Davis, the top-ranked skater at this distance, clocked 1:09.12.
Davis was poised — and expected by most — to make history Wednesday. After winning gold in Torino and Vancouver in the 1,000 meters, the 31-year-old, who lives and trains in Utah, could have joined speedskater Bonnie Blair as the only winter Olympian to win three gold medals in the same event.
Davis said making history didn’t add to the pressure on him, nor did it deepen his disappointment.
“It’s a bonus,” he said of the opportunity to make history. “It wasn’t the thing I was looking to do. First and foremost, I wanted to win the race. I wanted to win the gold medal. I’m pretty sad, but not about making history but about winning the medal.”
Davis joins two other U.S. legends who were expected to cement their legacies at the games. Five-time Olympian and Alpine skier Bode Miller dominated the downhill training sessions and then failed to make the podium Saturday.
Then Tuesday night, the most recognized winter Olympian and most decorated snowboarder, Shaun White, finished fourth as the Americans were shut out of the podium for the first time since the sport was added to the games in 1998.
While his voice indicated surprise, he said he wasn’t stunned by his eighth-place finish. And he recognized that a lot of skaters train hard to succeed at the games.
“I’m not in shock,” he said. “I’m very much in tune with reality. I’m a little bit disappointed, but it’s sports, you know. You win some, you lose some. A lot of people trained all their lives for this.”
He said the race started well for him, but he couldn’t explain why he didn’t maintain — or increase — his pace.
“I felt fast in the opener,” Davis said. “But just after the opener, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know. I have to look at the film and see. I feel fine physically. It’s just that I wasn’t fast enough today, and I don’t know why. But I have to figure it out. I’ll go back to the drawing board, re-evaluate, reassess the 1,500 strategy so that I can get a medal. This one hurts me a lot. But kudos to the people who were able to (win).”
So far, the U.S. speedskaters haven’t been able to live up to the high expectations many had before the games. Brian Hansen, Illinois, was ninth; Joey Mantia, Florida, was 15th and Jonathan Garcia, Texas, was 28th.
The women compete in the 1,000 meters Thursday night at Adler Arena.
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