Shani Davis entered the 2014 Winter Olympics as one of the most decorated American speedskaters of all time, but he failed to add to his impressive legacy on Wednesday by falling short of the podium in the 1,000-meter race in Sochi.
Dan Wolken of USA Today reports the news:
Shani Davis fails to medal— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) February 12, 2014
The Dutch managed to continue their dominance on the speedskating rink, as Stefan Groothuis took home the gold. Canadian Denny Morrison snagged the silver medal, and a second Dutchman, Michel Mulder—winner of the 500-meter race—won the bronze.
Davis won gold in the event in both 2006 and 2010, and after Shaun White's fourth-place finish in snowboarding halfpipe, Davis had an opportunity to become the first American man to win three consecutive individual Olympic golds in the same event, according to NBC's Andrew Siciliano:
No American man has won 3 straight gold medals in same event at Winter Games. White couldn't do it. Shani Davis tries tomorrow in 1000m.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) February 11, 2014
Amy Donaldson of the Deseret News highlighted some of Team USA's more notable shortcomings thus far in Sochi:
Bode Miller, Shaun White, Shani Davis...2014 Games tough on some of TEAM USA's legendary athletes. #sochi2014— Amy Donaldson (@adonsports) February 12, 2014
Which is the bigger American disappointment?
The 31-year-old Chicago native came into Sochi with plenty of pressure, and that pressure became even greater as American hopefuls in other disciplines failed to live up to lofty expectations. Perhaps that pressure got to him as he was unable to come through at the Adler Arena Skating Center.
There seemed to be some concern among American fans regarding Davis' form ahead of the 1,000-meter event. Davis was a non-factor in the 500-meter race; however, that has never been one of his premier competitions.
Davis essentially admitted as much on Twitter by calling the 1,000- and 1,500-meter events his "big" races:
should mention that my big Olympic races are on wednesday (1000) & saturday (1500)!! that's speedskating, for you new followers :)— Shani Davis (@ShaniDavis) February 9, 2014
Davis' coach, Ryan Shimabukuro, tried to ease any concerns following the 500-meter race by claiming that it was simply a tune-up for Davis prior to his main focuses, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today:
For the 500, for him it's all about using it as a prep for the 1,000 and 1,500, a snap-up. He knows the 500 is a stretch for him. He just uses it for training and to prepare for his other races. I don't think he had any delusions of grandeur about going into this race with any medal expectations.
The complete opposite was true of the 1,000-meter race as Davis carried the weight of a nation on his shoulders. As is often the case, the Netherlands had dominated the long-track speedskating events leading up to Wednesday's outing, and Davis was supposed to stem the tide.
Davis was fully aware of the high level of competition waiting for him in Sochi, though. He has never been one to be boisterous, but he seemed especially reserved regarding his chances in the 1,000-meter race going in, per Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News.
"If I skate well enough, I'm obviously more than happy to take the title," Davis said. "But it's a big challenge. ... The 1,000 is going to be an intense competition. We'll see what happens."
How will Shani Davis fare in the 1,500-meter race?
Davis' apparent lack of confidence proved prophetic as he was far from dominant in what has been his best event over the years. There is no time to dwell on the loss, though, and Davis knows that better than anyone with the 1,500-meter event looming on Saturday.
In many ways, the 1,500-meter race has been Davis' white whale. He won silver in the event at both the Turin and Vancouver Olympic Games, so gold in that race is essentially the only thing missing from Davis' incredible resume.
Even after his poor performance in the 1,000-meter race, Davis can potentially salvage his 2014 Olympic experience by finally capturing gold in the 1,500. Dutchman Mark Tuitert beat Davis in Vancouver, and he once again stands in his way in Sochi.
Davis has three 1,500-meter World Championships to his credit, and he will be considered a top contender on Saturday. If nothing else, perhaps his uncharacteristic failure in the 1,000-meter race will serve as further motivation when it comes to finally topping the podium in the 1,500.
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