The men's 500-meter speedskating event gets underway on Monday, and it should offer even more thrills than the captivating sport already has at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
A loaded field of world-class skaters should create a compelling slate of races. The men will hit the ice seeking to dash to the finish at Adler Arena Skating Center, as opposed to the longer distances that require more patience and stamina.
These thrilling showcases will offer a bit more immediacy than the longer-winded 3,000-meter events did. There are two races overall, and the skaters will determine their finishes by their two combined times in those races.
In anticipation of the entertaining sprints of speedskating, let's take a look at the men's final in terms of which skaters to watch for and the competitors likeliest to take home the hardware.
Note: Statistics and information are courtesy of Sochi2014.com unless otherwise noted.
When: Monday, Feb. 10 (telecast begins at 7:30 a.m. ET)
Where: Adler Arena Skating Center at Olympic Park, Sochi, Russia
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Men's 500-meter preview
The field is headlined by all three of the previous Olympics' medal winners in defending champion Mo Tae-bum of South Korea, and Japan's Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato, who were silver and bronze medalists respectively.
Mo topped Kato in a thrilling finish at the last 500 meters World Cup race in Berlin.
On the United States' side, the outlook appears to be up in the air. Shani Davis won the 1,000 meters at the two previous Winter Games and figures to be a favorite in this shorter sprint to take home the gold medal, while USA 500-meter record-holder Tucker Fredricks also figures to be a top competitor.
But Davis is accustomed to having more time to get into his rhythm, and Fredricks has fallen off this past season, with a 12th-place finish in the previous Winter Games on his resume, too.
Fredricks is 29 but has a nagging bulging disk that has held him back, yet he still feels he can compete at an elite level, citing the veteran Kato as proof that his best may be still to come, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Gary D'Amato:
Joji and I were talking about it last year. His personal (best) was in 2005 and mine was in 2007. We couldn't believe it had been that long since we set personal bests. Once you get to a certain level it's hard to achieve those times. But finally last year Joji set another personal best. I was excited for him and it was inspirational for me because if he can do it, I can do it.
The Dutch have fared well thus far, with all three of the podium positions in the 5,000-meter event being occupied by the Netherlands, led by blazing fast two-time reigning gold medalist Sven Kramer.
Michel and Ronald Mulder figure to be top competitors in this one, seeking to join their compatriots in bolstering their nation's medal count in the process. AP reporter Raf Casert was impressed with Michel Mulder's recent blazing time, and noted that the 27-year-old considered himself a favorite:
Thus, there is no shortage of intriguing storylines ahead of this one.
Look for the former Mulder brother, who placed third in the aforementioned Berlin competition, to earn a medal and for Davis to challenge despite his previous expertise in slightly longer events. In the end, it will be Mo Tae-bum retaining his title, becoming just the fourth man to successfully do so in this event.
Prediction: Gold—Mo Tae-bum; Silver—Shani Davis; Bronze—Michel Mulder
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