Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick will never be the best of friends.
At least all that nastiness from Turin is behind them. And now everyone can focus on what these two have accomplished inside the oval.
With another big race to go at the Vancouver Games, Davis and Hedrick are assured of going down as two of the greatest speedskaters in U.S. history, instead of being tainted by their feud at the 2006 Winter Olympics, where they battled over Davis not skating a team event.
Davis became the first Olympian to win the 1,000 meters twice when he defended his title Wednesday, somehow finding a little extra speed on the last half-lap to pull out the gold. Joining him on the podium was Hedrick, whose bronze made him the only American male outside of the great Eric Heiden to claim medals at four different distances.
“All that stuff that was done before, man, that is old news,” Hedrick said. “I just hope people will look at us in a different light and think, man, those guys are good athletes, rather than wondering who wants to fight with who.”
The two stood together on the victory stand, each holding one end of an American flag.
“Him and I getting together and carrying the American flag, I think that shows that, you know what, people misread us,” said Hedrick, who added to the medals he won in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 at the 2006 games. “We just want to win.”
Davis became just the third American man to win more than one speedskating gold medal, joining Heiden (five at the 1980 Lake Placid Games) and Irving Jaffee (two golds at the ’32 Games, also in Lake Placid).
“When you’re a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get this little thing on your back called a target,” Davis said. “To go out there and win the 1,000 meters twice is truly amazing.”
Davis dug deep on his final lap, knowing he needed a little more speed to catch South Korea’s Mo Tae-bum. The American swung both arms twice before leaning into the final turn, giving him just enough of a boost for a time of 1 minute, 8.94 seconds.
Mo, who won gold in the 500 two days earlier, settled for silver this time, 18-hundreths behind Davis. Hedrick was next in 1:09.32.
Davis and Hedrick will face each other again on Saturday in the 1,500, both looking to add to their medal haul. Davis is world-record holder in that event, just as he is in the 1,000, but Hedrick is the only guy to beat him at the longer distance during the World Cup season.
“With me not having as good of a start, I have to pretty much focus on the 1,500,” Hedrick said. “This is a great sign for me, only losing by four-tenths in the 1,000 and knowing that Saturday is a longer race.”
When he won the 1,000 four years ago, Davis became the first African-American athlete to win an individual gold at the Winter Games. This time, he simply wanted to be known for his skating.
After spotting his winning time, Davis pumped both fists and slapped hands with the U.S. coaches on the backstretch. Then, as he coasted around near the finish line, Hedrick skated over to shake his hand firmly and pat him on the back several times.
Their accomplishments in 2006 ? Davis won a gold and silver; Hedrick a medal of each color ? were overshadowed by that nasty feud stemming from team pursuit. Davis wanted to stick with his individual events, a decision that peeved Hedrick, who believed it cost the Americans a shot at a medal.
Their animosity boiled over at a news conference after the 1,500, in which Davis finished second and Hedrick third. Hedrick brought up the team pursuit, and Davis stormed out of the room complaining that Hedrick didn’t congratulate him on his gold, only the silver.
No hard feelings this time.
While Davis was favored for gold, Hedrick’s bronze was a surprise. The brash Texan had a long layoff after Turin and wasn’t even sure if he wanted to skate at another Olympics.
“I had to dig down deep and find my passion for speedskating again,” Hedrick said.
He had not won a major race since 2006 until his December victory over Davis at the World Cup in Calgary. Davis came back the following week to beat Hedrick ? and set a world record ? at the Olympic oval outside of Salt Lake City.
They’ll go at it again Saturday.
No matter what happens, their place in speedskating history is secure.
“We’re both at the top of our game,” Davis said, “and we both want to win.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.