Olympic Speedskating 2014: Top Competitors to Watch in Remaining Events

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Olympic Speedskating 2014: Top Competitors to Watch in Remaining Events
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The early results in the 2014 Winter Olympics have not featured much balance on the speedskating front, but expect the competition to pick up in Sochi.

So far, the Dutch have dominated with three gold medals and clean sweeps of the podium in both the men's 5,000 and 500 meters. Sven Kramer, Michel Mulder and Ireen Wust have all captured gold for the Netherlands, solidifying the country's dominance in long-track events.

Moving into the short track, the tides could turn with other nations joining the fun.

The United States is especially looking for a stronger showing to cap off the Sochi Games, and Shani Davis and J.R. Celski are strong contenders to provide just that.

Who can stop the Netherlands' reign of terror during the remaining speedksating events? Let's take a look.

Shani Davis, United States

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The most intriguing storyline in speedskating remains Davis' quest for history in the men's 1,000 meters.

Davis has taken gold during the last two Olympics, and a third victory would make him the first American to win three straight titles in the same Winter event. At age 31, it also might mark the veteran's last chance at enhancing his medal tally.

Becoming synonymous with the one event has its disadvantages. According to The Boston Globe's John Powers, the four-time Olympic medalist acknowledged that his sterling reputation in the 1,000 places a bullseye on him.

“People are shooting for me," Davis said. "I have the biggest target on my back and people really strive to beat me. That’s all they train and aim for. In the 1,000, I’m the man. My job is to try to defend it.”

He has also earned the same finish in the 1,500 meters for two years running, only it's one he'd probably like to improve. He has snagged silver in each of the past two Olympic Games, so he has to be considered a veritable contender in that event as well.

Ireen Wust, Netherlands

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Wust has now captured a gold medal in each of the past three Winter Olympics. Could this be the year she claims more than one?

The Dutch star continued her country's dominance by winning the 3,000 meters, finishing 1.61 seconds ahead of Martina Sablíkova. While the 27-year-old has already accomplished so much, she has two more opportunities to attain gold.

The four-time world champion will compete in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters to conclude her trip to Sochi. She has experienced success in the 1,500 before, registering gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games. 

Championships are expected from this speedskating mainstay, but the competition is steep with Christine NesbitClaudia Pechstein and Heather Richardson also vying for the glory of gold. Wust can separate herself from the pack with another first-place finish.

J.R. Celski

Celski has been tabbed as the United States' future speedskating star set to take the torch from Davis. The great expectations made his fourth-place finish in the short-track 1,500 meters all the more disappointing.

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The 23-year-old up-and-comer held the lead with five laps to go, but he allowed Canada's Charles Hamelin to catch up and nab his third gold medal. Celski's late attempt to duplicate his bronze finish from 2010 fell short.

For Celski, anything shy of first place is a letdown. 

"I came out to win gold," he told the Los Angeles Times' Philip Hersh. "Anything below that is tough."

Close enough to taste the gold, he now must stay hungry in the remaining events. He could interfere with Davis' quest for glory before joining forces with him during the team relay. 

Considering all the hype thrown upon him, leaving Sochi empty-handed would be a disheartening outcome for one of the world's top young speedskaters

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