Chris Witty couldn't catch the Dutch. Hardly anyone has at these Olympics.
Marianne Timmer won her second gold medal today, nipping America's best hope for a speedskating victory at the Nagano Games in the women's 1,000-meter race.Witty finished 0.28 seconds behind Timmer, who set an Olympic record of 1 minutes, 16.51 seconds, three days after establishing a world mark in the 1,500. She is the second double-gold medalist for the Netherlands, joining Gianni Romme.
The Dutch have won five of the nine speedskating events and 11 medals overall, the best Olympics ever for that skate-crazy nation.
With only the women's 5,000 to go, it appears the Americans will be shut out of a gold medal for the first time since 1984. But don't blame Witty, who has given the American speedskaters both their two medals in Nagano - a bronze in the 1,500 and now a silver.
"It's really hard to be that close to gold," Witty said. "But the more I look back on it, I know I skated a decent race and silver is pretty good."
Catriona LeMay Doan of Canada, gold medalist in the 500, took bronze today in 1:17.37 as all three medalists - and even fourth-place finisher Sabine Voelker of Germany - eclipsed Christa Rothenburger's 10-year-old Olympic record of 1:17.65.
Witty, who has a pierced navel and a leprechaun tattooed on her hip, skated in the final pair alongside Canadian Susan Auch carrying the weight of America's speedskating hopes.
Witty's parents, Walter and Diane, along with two brothers, Mike and Clint, traveled from West Allis, Wis., to root her on, an American flag draped across their laps. But their heads slumped in disappointment when her time flashed on the screen - 1:16.79.
"She probably handled all the pressure better than we did," Diane Witty said before watching her daughter step on the podium to accept another medal.
Bonnie Blair won the last two Olympic 1,000s, a legacy that Witty wasn't able to extend against the powerful Dutch. She is only 22, though, part of a new generation of speedskaters who seem to give the Americans hope for a more promising games in Salt Lake City.
Two other Americans wound up in the top 10. Becky Sundstrum of Glen Ellyn, Ill., was sixth at 1:18.23; Moira D'Andrea of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., placed ninth at 1:18.38; and Jennifer Rodriguez of Miami took 13th at 1:19.19.
"Hopefully, I won't have to live in the shadow of the great Bonnie Blair anymore," Witty said. "That isn't a bad thing, but now people will remember me for being Chris Witty more than anything."
Even the great Blair might have had trouble winning gold against this Dutch team.
Timmer, coached by 1976 U.S. gold medalist Peter Mueller, was in the midst of a lackluster season when she arrived in Nagano, but she somehow managed to recapture the form that made her world champion in the 1,000 a year ago.
"The feeling is really strange," she said. "Before I came here, I never thought I could win a medal. Now I have two golds. Sometimes I wonder if it's really true."
After beating the rest of the field by more than a second in the 1,500, Timmer suddenly became the favorite in 1,000.
"A lot of times when you win a medal, you feel like you've had enough," Mueller said. "But Timmer is the type of person who always wants more."