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Olympics / Sports

USA's Jonathan Garcia relaxes after competing in the men's 1000 meter race at Adler Arena during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, February 12, 2014. (Harry E. Walker/MCT)

Tough day at the office for US' Shani Davis; Stefan Groothuis of the Netherlands takes gold in 1,000-meter speedskating

SOCHI, Russia -- Shani Davis had no excuses, no regrets and not a shred of self-pity.

What he also did not have Wednesday was his customary final-lap speed in the men's 1,000-meter speedskating race at the Winter Olympics.

Davis' eighth-place finish at the Adler Arena was beyond surprising. It was positively shocking, because the 31-year-old skater has owned the 1,000 for a decade.

Gold medals in the 2006 Turin Games and the 2010 Vancouver Games. The world record-holder since 2009. A record 39 World Cup victories in the race. Five season-long World Cup titles.

If anyone was going to break the Americans' long-track medal drought here, it was going to be Davis, who had won three of the four 1,000s this season and was attempting to become the first U.S. male to win the same event in three different (and consecutive) Winter Olympics.

But almost nothing went right in the race. He fell significantly off the pace at 600 meters, couldn't carry his speed in the final lap and finished with a time of 1 minute 9.12 seconds.

"There's no excuse, man," Davis said. "It was nothing physical that went wrong. I just simply didn't have the speed in the lap, and that's something I've always had over my competitors.

"I felt fast in the opener (first 200 meters), but after the opener I just couldn't do it. I don't know. I have to look at the film and see (what went wrong)."

Apolo Anton Ohno, the retired short-track legend and one of Davis' best friends, said weeks before the Games that he had Davis pegged for "automatic gold" in Sochi. But if you've followed the long-track speedskating here, you know that nothing has been automatic except the Dutch.

Stefan Groothuis gave the Netherlands its fourth gold medal in five races, winning with a time of 1:08.39. Denny Morrison of Canada won the silver in 1:08.43 and Michel Mulder of the Netherlands took the bronze in 1:08.74.

The Dutch have won 10 of a possible 15 long-track medals.

"This one hurts me a lot, but kudos to the people who were able to go out there and achieve their dreams," Davis said. "It's a great feeling. I'm aware of it. And now I've got to look for the feeling in the 1,500 meters (Saturday)."

There was more disappointment for the Americans as Brian Hansen of Glenview, Ill., who trains with Davis at the Pettit National Ice Center, finished ninth in 1:09.21. Hansen was ranked third in the World Cup standings and was considered a strong medal contender.

He was paired with Mo Tae Bum of Korea, the silver medal-winner in 2006, and when Hansen beat him to the line he looked up expecting to see a fast time.

"I thought I'd see my name up there in one of the top spots," he said. "But it was a really competitive group and that just wasn't the case."

Hansen admitted it was hard to find a silver lining in the result.

"I have an expectation of where I'm going to finish based on World Cups and how I've been skating throughout the year and last year as well," he said. "And also how I've been feeling. I felt really good today, and I thought today was going to be one of the better days of my skating career. It was an OK race. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't what I hoped, I guess."

Joey Mantia of Ocala, Fla., finished 15th and Jonathan Garcia of Houston finished 28th.

Davis said the pressure of trying to win a third consecutive gold medal in the 1,000 hadn't weighed on him.

"It wasn't like the thing I was looking to do," he said. "If I make history that's great. But first and foremost I wanted to win the race. I wanted to win the gold medal. And if I did that and made history that's wonderful, but today I wasn't able to do it. So I'm pretty sad, not about not making history but not winning the medal more than anything.

"I just have to get over it quick, man, because in a few days I have a 1,500 meters race and I'm going to try to win a medal there."

Davis won silver medals in the 1,500 in the last two Olympics.

But now he has to figure out what went wrong and try to fix it. Plus, he's got to be able to get past the disappointment of a result in the 1,000 that no one expected.

"I'm not in shock," Davis said. "I'm very in tune with reality. I'm very disappointed, but it's sports. You win some and you lose some. There's a lot of people that have trained all their lives to win and Groothuis was able to do it today. I'm very happy for him, but I'm disappointed for me.

"As a human being I have to learn to accept that and I have to move forward."

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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MEN--S SPEEDSKATING


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