ADLER, Russia -- U.S. speedskaters Shani Davis and Mitchell Whitmore both took the starting line for their second Olympic Games 500-meter finals race Monday night with diminished expectations.
Davis saw the race as primarily a tune-up for his 1,000-meter three-peat attempt and the quest to become the first male speedskater to win gold medals in three Olympic Games. Whitmore was just trying to salvage something out of disappointing day.
By the end of their pairing, only Davis was smiling.
Davis finished 24th in the 40-skater field with a combined time of 70.98 seconds but was nevertheless pleased with the opportunity to rev his motor on the Adler Arena oval before Wednesday's 1,000 event. Whitmore finished his pairing with Davis in 35.71, .12 back, for an overall time of 71.06 that left him 27th in the standings.
Michel Mulder won the 500, leading a second Dutch sweep of the medals in as many men's speed skating events at these Games, edging countryman Jan Smeekens by 12-thousandths of a second, 69.312 to 69.324.
Whitmore, 24, had also hoped to be in medal contention after posting four top 10 finishes in the 500 on this season's World Cup circuit, including a fourth in Salt Lake City. Instead he was clocked in 35.34 in his first heat, leaving him 20th, well out of the medal race after the first round.
"Going into the second race not being in the hunt for a medal kind of takes you out of it a little bit," Whitmore said.
"Definitely disappointing," he continued. "The World Cup season this year has been pretty good. Finished near the top quite a few times, so yeah it's disappointing not being up there because you know you can. Sometimes that just happens at 500. Some days it's just, just not there, timing's off or something. But there are some good things I can take away from the weekend that I can put toward my skating for the next four years.
"Just a bad weekend for me."
Davis was much more upbeat from his takeaway from Monday.
"Got some good top speed," he said. "Now I just have to put it together for Wednesday."
The Chicago native won the 1,000 both in Turin in 2006 and four years later in Vancouver. "Nothing can top that feeling of being on top of that podium around your neck," he said. But Davis has no illusions about his historic quest for a third 1,000 gold.
"People are shooting for me," he said. "I have the biggest target on my back. People want to beat me. That's what they're training for. ... The higher the reward, the more pressure."
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