Winning one Olympic gold medal is the dream of a lifetime for some athletes. Winning two in the same event is something only the best of the best have accomplished. Winning three is almost unheard of, but that's what U.S. speedskater Shani Davis is going after on Wednesday.
Davis is skating to win his third gold medal in 1,000-meter long-track speedskating. If he does pull off the three-peat, he'll become the first male U.S. Olympian to take home the gold in the same event at three consecutive Olympic Games. Shaun White had the same opportunity on Tuesday but failed to even make the podium in the men's snowboard halfpipe. Now, with all his competitors knowing who rules the ice in the 1,000-meter event, Davis will have to overcome an enormous amount of pressure to win once again.
So how hard will it be for Shani Davis to win it all again? We all know that he's won in 2006 and in 2010. But that's the past, and this is the present.
Davis currently holds the world record in 1,000-meter speedskating with a time of 1 minute, 6.42 seconds. In the current 2013-2014 ISU Speedskating World Cup, Shani has won three of the four 1,000-meter races and recorded the fastest time this season (1:06.88). So he's still got the goods. Now it's just a matter of who can rise up and take the gold away from him.
The Dutch have had a phenomenal start at Sochi in the speedskating events. They've swept both the men's 500-meter and 5,000-meter events, and Michel Mulder and Stefan Groothuis are the nation's best chances of getting to the podium once again.
Korea's Mo Tae-bum is another serious contender. He won the most recent World Cup event and took home silver in the 2010 Games.
Fellow American Brian Hansen will also be looking to pull off the upset. Of the skaters who are competing at Sochi, he's come the closest to beating Davis' best time of the 2013-2014 World Cup season with a time of 1:07.03.
If Davis skates his best, then it seems as though the competition is his to lose. The real question is whether or not the pressure will get to him.
In Olympic history, Germany's Claudia Pechstein and the United States' Bonnie Blair are the only two long-track speedskaters who have won three gold medals in the same event at consecutive Olympic Games. If Davis can win in Sochi, then he'd be the first male skater to accomplish the feat.
Four skaters have tried and failed before. Those four won two consecutive gold medals, then fell short the third time around.
A lot is on the line for Shani Davis. A gold in the 1,000-meters puts him among the eight Winter Olympians who have won three or more in a single individual event. Realistically, he's one of the only American long-track speedskaters who can bring home a gold medal this year.
The pressure is mounting, and anything less than a third gold for Shani Davis may seem like a bit of a disappointment. Whatever the result though, Davis should be remembered as one of the most accomplished American speedskaters of his time.