Winter Olympics Speedskating 2014: Previewing Favorites for Key Upcoming Races

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Winter Olympics Speedskating 2014: Previewing Favorites for Key Upcoming Races
Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

Shani Davis of the United States headlines the list of star Olympic speedskating competitors set to hit the rink in the days to come at the 2014 Winter Games. 

There are eight remaining single events left on the schedule, and the competition in Sochi will conclude with the men's and ladies' team pursuit.

While every event on the slate is of utmost importance to those competing, there are a few that stand above the rest from a historical and hype perspective.

Here's a look at the the top favorites for the biggest remaining events.

 

Men's 1,000-Meter Race: Shani Davis, USA

Perhaps the biggest speedskating race of the 2014 Olympic Games will be the men's 1,000 meter, which will offer Shani Davis of the United States a chance at a third gold medal. 

After winning gold in 2006 and 2010, Davis, at the age of 31, won't likely have another shot at winning this third gold in this distance (or any other) ever again. And from the sound of it, he's highly motivated to continue building his legendary legacy with another strong showing in Sochi.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

“Every time I step out on the ice and I put my hood on, I have something to prove to whoever’s watching,” said Davis, via Karen Rosen of TeamUSA.org “I feel like I train hard; I’ve been doing it for 25 years since I was 6 years old. And I just love being in the position I’m in now because years ago I would have never thought I would be as good as I am now. I’m just so thankful that I’m here now.”

Rising stars Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands and Zbigniew Brodka of Poland will push him to the limit when the competitors line up for the start of this race on Wednesday, Feb. 12. It'll take another vintage performance from Davis to hold them off. 

 

Women's 1,000-Meter Race: Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, USA

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The highly touted American duo of Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe will be heavily favored to finish with the two top spots in the ladies' 1,000-meter race on Thursday, Feb. 13. Richardson comes into the Olympics ranked No. 1, while Bowe comes in at No. 2 in the World Cup standings.

Canada's Caroline Nesbitt won the 1,000-meter race in 2010, much to the delight of her fans in Vancouver, but she hasn't been dominant on the ice since 2012. 

Richardson earned the top rank in the World Cup thanks to her remarkable consistency, but it's Bowe who has shown more speed. She broke the world record in Utah recently at a World Cup event in November of 2013—a fact she was only too happy to share recently on Twitter:

Interestingly enough, the two competitors are also roommates and get along famously both on and off the ice. 

"We’re teammates, friends, competitors and roommates," Richardson recently said, regarding her relationship with Bowe, as noted by Paul Newberry of the Associated Press, via The Columbus Dispatch. "It’s really special to have one of the fastest, if not the fastest, girl in the world on my team, working with me day in and day out. We’re really lucky to have each other."

The Americans will almost certainly push one another to a podium finish in this race.

 

Women's 5,000-Meter Race: Martina Sablikova, Czech Republic 

Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic has already secured her position as one of the top ladies speedskaters in Olympic history. After winning double gold in the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter races in Vancouver (2010), she was dubbed, "The queen of skating," by IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Sablikova already earned herself a silver medal in the 3,000-meter race in the 2014 Winter Games, finishing in second place behind Ireen Wust of the Netherlands. This wasn't an unexpected result, as the 3,000 meter was never her favored race.

"Wust was simply very fast today and nobody could fight her," Sablikova said after the race, as relayed by The Moulton Advertiser, via the Associated Press.

But it will be an absolute stunner if Sablikova comes away with anything other than a gold medal when she lines up to race against her competitors in the 5,000-meter race on Wednesday, Feb. 19. This is an event she's won at a World Cup level six previous times, as pointed out by NBC's Amanda Doyle:

Strong, indeed. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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