Monday, December 30, 2013
KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Shani Davis calls the 1,000 meters "one of my babies."
He'll be heading to Sochi looking to win a third straight gold medal.
The two-time defending Olympic champion captured another title in his signature event, edging Brian Hansen by a hundredth of a second at the U.S. speedskating trials Sunday.
At age 31 and likely preparing for his final Winter Games, Davis is already assured of being remembered as one of the greats of the sport.
He's not ready to slow down just yet.
"I'm the older brother to all these young guys," he said. "I'm just trying to keep them at bay. They're nipping at me."
Davis has locked up at least two events in Sochi, also claiming a spot in the 500, and is favored in the still-to-come 1,500, the other of his "babies" and the race that produced silver medals in Turin and Vancouver. In addition, there's a chance he'll take part in the team pursuit, a race he passed on at previous Olympics because he didn't want to affect preparations for his individual events.
After gliding along patiently on the backstretch, hands clasped behind his back during a two-minute television commercial break that delayed the start of the next-to-last pairing, Davis powered around the final turn for a time of 1 minute, 7.52 seconds.
Hansen came up just short in the final group, crossing the stripe in 1:07.53.
"I'm happy I came across the line first," Davis said. "Did you see how close that was?"
Hansen respects what Davis means to the sport, but he's eager to make his mark in Sochi.
"It's exciting for me," Hansen said. "I'm happy for Shani that he's going for such a great achievement. But at the same time, I'm hoping I can put down my best race come Sochi. That's the nature of sport."
Davis relishes the competition from a teammate.
"It's only going to make us stronger," he said. "They're pushing me. I'm pushing them. We're all striving to be the best we can be, and you saw it today."
On the women's side, Heather Richardson beat Brittany Bowe in the 1,000 — a repeat of their 1-2 finish in the 500 on Saturday. The other two projected spots on the Olympic team went to Sugar Todd and Kelly Gunther, the latter completing her comeback from a gruesome ankle injury shortly after she just missed making the Vancouver Olympics.
"I can't believe it," Gunther said, "with everything I've been through and fighting back."
Bowe is the world-record holder in the 1,000, setting the mark of 1:12.58 at the oval in suburban Salt Lake City just last month. She didn't come close to that time at the trials, settling for the second spot in 1:13.93 and conceding she was worn down a bit after the grueling World Cup schedule.
"It was a solid race," Bowe said. "Was it as fast as I would've liked? No. But it was good enough to put me on the Olympic team, and that's all that matters."
Richardson's winning time was 1:13.23. She and Bowe will go to Sochi as the favorites in the 1,000 — a role that Richardson relishes.
"Just remember to take deep breaths and relax and have fun," she said. "That's when I skate my best."
Davis knows what it's like to be an Olympic favorite.
In Sochi, he will attempt to become the first male skater to win the same speedskating event at three straight Olympics. Bonnie Blair of the U.S. and Germany's Claudia Pechstein are the only skaters to pull off a three-peat — Blair winning the 500 in 1988, 1992 and 1994, while Pechstein took the 5,000 title in 1994, 1998 and 2002.
Further back in the standings, everyone cheered the gutsy performance turned in by Jonathan Garcia, who was disqualified the previous day in the 500 for not wearing his timing transponders, after skating fast enough to make the Olympic team. The Texan came back to finish fourth in the 1,000 at 1:07.96, good enough again to claim the first Olympic berth of his career.
This time is counted.
Joey Mantia also is going to the Olympics for the first time after taking third in 1:07.88.
Garcia smiled and held up a transponder in each hand for the cheering crowd at the Utah Olympic Oval. No way he was forgetting the devices this time.
"I didn't let it get to me," Garcia said. "I really didn't think about it. In my mind, I truly believed that I already made the team. I had skated fast enough to be on the team."
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