KEARNS — Shani Davis slid the placard announcing his new world record into place, raised his fist, smiled widely and then quietly thanked those who waited more than 30 minutes to see the short ceremony.
It was the only public comment Davis gave about his jaw-dropping performance in the World Cup 1,500-meter speed-skating race Friday afternoon at the Utah Olympic Oval. Davis, who bested his own world record, won the men's event in 1:41.04, nearly a full second faster than any other man.
"That's an incredible world record," said Chad Hedrick, Davis' American teammate and the second-place finisher with a time of 1:42.19. "I thought for a while he was going to go 1:40. ... He's got such a strong start. It's his early speed that is amazing."
In long track, the faster a skater starts, the better he or she will likely do, because they tend to pick up speed on the gliding sections. Hedrick pointed out that the world record just six years ago was 1:43.95.
"We've taken nearly three seconds off in six or seven years," he said. "That's incredible. The sport is just out of control. We're almost sprinting the whole thing."
Davis' effort was impressive, especially after his 12th-place finish in the 500-meter race just a few hours earlier.
"I thought it was the best race he's ever skated in his life," said Hedrick.
Hedrick was happy with his second-place finish, as he said he still feels a little rusty after coming out of retirement.
"I don't feel like I'm at my best yet," he said. "I am not really feeling like I'm 100 percent. So to skate that well, that was a good sign for me."
Hedrick retired after the 2006 Olympics but returned to the sport because he felt he still had something to prove on the ice.
"I gave up after the 2006 Games," he said. He won a gold (500 meters), silver (10,000 meters) and bronze (1,500 meters) in Torino. "But I knew deep down inside I was still the best skater in the world."
He said he is a different man approaching the 2010 Games after getting married and having a baby girl.
"It's a different Chad these days," he said. "I'm a family guy. It's a whole different approach to life. I am much more content. That doesn't mean I'm not going to continue to work and try and overtake (Davis)."
Hedrick said he is more focused than ever on earning a gold medal in the 1,500-meter race.
"I have been training for this race right here," he said. "That's why I commend Shani on doing what he did today."
The two men challenge each other to be better, which will be a good thing for American sports fans.
"Americans have to love the two of us lining up together," Hedrick said, reiterating he has every intention of doing what he can to earn an Olympic medal.
"I've got one guy standing in my way," he said.
American Brian Hansen, 19, broke his own junior world record with a time of 1:44.45 (for 16th place) in the 1,500-meter race.
"I'm happy," he said. "A new personal best, so I'm happy with that."
He was also impressed with the performances of his teammates Hedrick and Davis.
"That was pretty cool," he said of Davis' world record. "I knew he was capable of something like that. I am really happy for Chad, too."
Germany's Jenny Wolf set a new world record in the women's 500-meter race with a time of 37 seconds. Wang Beixing, of China, was second, while Lee Sang-Hwa, of Korea, was third.
"My opener was not that fast," Wolf said. "When I raced, I didn't feel like I would get a world record, but when I looked up, it was. I was not too sad about it."
She said she didn't feel well, as her hamstrings were tight.
"That's a good sign that I've done really good training," she said. "Maybe tomorrow I can race faster, but I don't think so."
For complete results, go to http://live.isuresults.eu/2009-2010/salt%20lake%20city.
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