Winter Olympics: Silver lining a cloud for Davis in 1,500
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- All alone, his pace reduced to a deliberate glide, Shani Davis circled the Olympic oval. His hands were folded behind his back. His head was bowed only slightly, his face devoid of detectible emotion and his eyes looking nowher...
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- All alone, his pace reduced to a deliberate glide, Shani Davis circled the Olympic oval. His hands were folded behind his back. His head was bowed only slightly, his face devoid of detectible emotion and his eyes looking nowhere in particular.
From behind his right shoulder came Mark Tuitert, a brilliant smile etched on his face, the flag of the Netherlands held aloft. The pro-Dutch crowd, agents orange one and all, roared. The house oompah band, Kleintje Pils, was at full blare. Davis never looked up as the gale of joy blew by.
The Chicago native once again had completed the race he always has wanted to win -- the "King's race," as he called it. And as it was four years ago, Davis' desire for Olympic gold in 1,500-meter speedskating was left wanting, his time of 1:46.10 good only for a second straight silver medal Saturday.
Gold did not go to Davis, the world record-holder. It did not go to U.S. teammate Chad Hedrick, who also sought atonement for what occurred in Turin, Italy, in 2006. It instead went to Tuitert, a 1,000-meter specialist who somehow set a track record in a longer race on tougher ice.
"It was the best I could do," Davis said. "I came across the line, I heard the oohs and ahs, and I'm like, 'Me? Oh, Mark.' But that's just the way of the sport. Any given day, people can go out and achieve greatness. This happened to me in (Turin). And now it happens to me in Vancouver four years later. I have to accept it, and hopefully I can get stronger from it."
It was almost tragicomedy, the way in which the particulars of this race matched those of the 1,500-meter event in the 2006 Winter Games. Davis and Hedrick were favorites then, and Italy's Enrico Fabris stunningly usurped the moment.
Save the bubbling animosity between Davis and Hedrick that plagued 2006, Saturday offered an eerie reprise at which the U.S. skaters could only shrug. Tuitert became the first Dutch skater to win Olympic gold in the 1,500 in 38 years.
"This is the second time in a row than Shani and I got the race stolen from us," said Hedrick, who won bronze in '06 and finished a disappointing sixth Saturday. "We go in as heavy favorites every time, and some special skater that day comes in and beats us."
Hedrick was undone by emotion, crying before the race -- it would be his last individual effort at the Olympics -- and then "panicking" during it, in his words. He never approached Tuitert's pace and finished in 1:46.69.
"Thirty-one years I worked just for this race," Hedrick said. "I came up short today but left it all out there."
Vonn 'backed off'
Another American settling for a medal other than gold is Lindsey Vonn. She notched a bronze in the super-G.
Austria's Andrea Fischbacher pulled off the upset in the event, and Tina Maze of Slovenia was the surprise silver medalist.
Vonn won the downhill to open her Olympics, then wiped out in the slalom leg of the super-combined. She conceded she let up at the end -- and it cost her.
While many of the favorites struggled with a sharp right turn midway down, Vonn made it through that section without a problem. She then lost nearly half a second on the bottom section.
"Once I got past those difficult sections, I kind of backed off the gas pedal," Vonn said. "I felt like I just didn't ski as aggressively as I could have, and I think that's where I lost the race."
The Austrians, who won 14 Alpine medals including four golds in Turin, had gotten off to a slow start. Elisabeth Goergl's bronze in the downhill had been their only medal. Fischbacher was reduced to tears after placing fourth in the downhill, finishing 0.03 seconds behind Goergl.
"At first I was really sad," Fischbacher said. "Then I was just saying, 'OK, maybe I make it in the super-G."'
Her coach, Juergen Kriechbaum, set the super-G course according to International Ski Federation rules that rotate the job to correspond with the higher-ranked super-G skiers. Fischbacher navigated her way down Franz's Run in 1 minute, 20.14 seconds. Maze was 0.49 behind, and Vonn was 0.74 back.
Vonn had already wrapped up the season-long World Cup super-G title by winning three of the five races so far; Fischbacher was third in the event standings.
On Saturday, she was denied a sweep of the speed events. Depending on how her bruised right shin holds up, the American still has two events remaining in Vancouver -- giant slalom and slalom.
Switzerland's Simon Ammann won the large hill to become the first ski jumper with four individual Olympic titles.
Ammann put down the best jump in both rounds. He used his disputed bindings again, beating four Austrians who weren't happy about his equipment.
Polish veteran Adam Malysz took silver, and 20-year-old Austrian Gregor Schlierenzauer earned bronze -- the exact same finish as in the normal hill jump a week ago.
Marcus Hellner of Sweden won the men's 30-kilometer pursuit, pulling away from three rivals after entering the ski stadium and building enough of a lead to sprint alone to the finish.
He was timed in 1 hour, 15 minutes, 11.4 seconds. Germany's Tobias Angerer finished 2.1 seconds behind for the silver medal. Sweden's Johan Olsson took the bronze, 2.8 back.
Both American teams are on winning streaks after rough starts.
The women have won two straight matches after opening 0-3. Debbie McCormick's U.S. team beat Britain 6-5 in an extra 11th end.
The men also won in an extra end, beating Sweden 8-7. A loss would all but have eliminated the Americans from medal contention.
The finals for women's freestyle aerials will be missing defending champion Evelyn Leu of Switzerland.
Leu fell on her second of two jumps in the qualifying round and did not make the final 12. Alla Tsuper of Belarus won the qualifying, followed by China's Li Nina, the 2006 silver medalist.
No American had advanced past qualifying since 1998. This time, three made it to the Wednesday's final: Emily Cook, Lacy Schnoor and 16-year-old Ashley Caldwell.
Romano Lemm scored 2:28 into overtime to lift Switzerland to a 5-4 victory over Norway. Tore Vikingstad's third goal of the game had sent Norway into overtime. Norway and Switzerland will have to win their next games to reach the quarterfinals.
Marian Hossa scored early in the second period, helping Slovakia rout winless Latvia 6-0. The Slovaks will have to win Tuesday to earn a quarterfinal spot.
Thousands of mourners flocked to the yard of Nodar Kumaritashvili's family for a traditional funeral in Bakuriani, Georgia. Inside the two-story brick home, the body of the 21-year-old luger lay in a coffin, surrounded by Orthodox Christian icons and burning candles. A choir sang chants and a portrait of the Olympian hung on the wall. His father, David Kumaritashvili, stared at the picture.
"I wanted to throw a wedding feast for you," he said. "Instead, we have a funeral."
The 21-year-old luger died in a crash hours before the opening ceremony. He is to be buried in the cemetery of a tiny church in the snowy Alpine village.
IOC president Jacques Rogge promised to do "everything in my power" to prevent a repeat of the crash. Rogge said in an interview with The Associated Press that the IOC would work with the luge federation to "take all the steps that might be needed.'