American speedskater Shani Davis' struggles continued at the 2014 Winter Olympics as the 31-year-old failed to reach the podium in the men's 1,500 meters in Sochi.
Davis finished in one minute, 45.98 seconds, which placed him 11th, 0.98 seconds behind gold-medal winner Zbigniew Brodka of Poland. The Netherlands' Koen Verweij won silver, finishing an astonishing .003 seconds behind Brodka. Bronze went to Canadian Denny Morrison, who finished in 1:45.22, according to Sochi2014.com.
It had been thought that perhaps Team USA's new uniforms were to blame for Davis'—and the team's—lack of form, but this race proved that to be little more than a pipe dream. Davis wore the same uniform he had at the World Cup last year, and the results were underwhelming.
Davis was one of Team USA's big title hopes heading into the Games. Not only has he been dominant in the 1,000 meters at the past two Olympics, but he's a strong contender in other disciplines.
Multiple medals were expected, but things didn't get off to a promising start.
He finished 24th out of 39 skaters in the 500 meters. While that isn't his best race, it was the first sign that perhaps the trip to Sochi wasn't going to become as successful as Davis and American fans hoped.
The Chicago, Ill., native then went for his third straight gold in the 1,000 meters. Even if he didn't finish atop the podium, he seemed like a lock to medal.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, he was trying to become the first male speedskater to win three straight Olympic golds:
Men's 1,000-meter speedskating just getting started; Shani Davis looking to become 1st male speedskater to win 3 straight Olympic golds.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 12, 2014
Instead, he finished eighth, more than seven-tenths of a second off the pace.
There was more pressure on Davis heading into the 1,500 meters since he failed to reach the podium in either of his first two events. He captured silver in the competition in each of the past two Olympics.
Unfortunately, he once again couldn't match his prior success. That's certainly not what Davis or American fans were expecting when the Games got underway.
Looking ahead, Davis will need to think about what he needs to do over the next four years to get back on top, if he's going to maintain an Olympic focus. He will be 35 for the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but he told Reuters, via NBC:
As a speed skater, Pyeongchang will be a special Olympics, since our sport is revered so much there. Bottom line, my desire and body will be the determining factors, and right now those are as strong as ever.
Will Davis be a medal contender in 2018?
Davis is a speedskating legend for Team USA. He was always going to have a very strong legacy regardless of how he performed in Sochi. That said, it's hard to categorize his performances in the three key races as anything but a disappointment,
Perhaps the results will serve as the ultimate motivation looking ahead to the next Olympics. That's the best way for Davis to turn a negative into a positive. Still, it will likely take some time for him to get over watching gold-medal chances slip away.