SOCHI, Russia – Shani Davis has dedicated the past 25 years to the pursuit of speed. And on the day when it mattered most, he simply could not find enough.
“There’s no excuse,” Davis said on his failed attempt to win Wednesday’s 1,000-meter long track speedskating race. “Nothing physical went wrong. I just simply didn’t have the speed.”
Davis finished eighth, 0.82 of a second behind gold medalist Stefan Groothuis of the Netherlands, who won in 1:08.39. Groothuis was joined on the podium by teammate Michel Mulder, who took bronze, and silver medalist Denny Morrison of Canada, who was only added to the 1,000-meter roster Tuesday after teammate Gilmore Junio announced he was giving up his spot for Morrison to race.
But it was Davis who was the clear favorite to win. The 31-year-old entered the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games undefeated in Olympic competition at the distance, having earned gold at the past two Games. Davis also has three 1,000-meter world championship titles to his name, along with 44 world cup wins. He has only missed the top of the 1,000-meter world cup podium (finishing third) once this season.
“I’m not in shock; I’m very in tune with reality,” Davis said, seeming almost at peace just one hour after his unexpected result. “I’m a little bit disappointed, but it’s sports — you win some, you lose some. There’s a lot of people who trained all their lives to win and Groothuis was able to do it today, and I’m very happy for him but I’m disappointed for me.”
Entering Wednesday’s race, Davis had the potential to become the first American man to win gold in the same event at three consecutive Winter Games — a storyline that was well-touted heading into the Winter Games. Shaun White also failed to accomplish the same feat when he finished fourth at Tuesday night’s halfpipe snowboarding final.
“It would have been a bonus. It wasn’t the thing I was looking to do,” Davis said of his chance to make history. “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.
“Today I wasn’t able to do it and I’m pretty sad — not about not making history, but about not winning the medal. I’ll just have to get over it quick because in a few days I have a 1,500-meter race and I’m going to try to win a medal there.”
Davis will also enter the 1,500-meter competition as a favorite, but this time with a little less pressure. Although his resume includes seven world championship titles in this distance, Davis earned silver in the 1,500 at the past two Winter Games and hopes to improve to gold in Saturday competition.
It goes without saying that Davis will study his 1,000-meter race, as well as those of the medalists, and use it to prepare for the 1,500. “I have to move forward. I have to learn from it so I can get stronger and apply it to the next possible opportunity that presents itself,” he said.
Joining Davis as medal threats in the 1,500 are U.S. teammates Brian Hansen and Joey Mantia. While they finished 9th and 15th, respectively, in the 1,000, both are accomplished 1,500-meter skaters. Hansen, a 2010 Olympic silver medalist in the team pursuit, scored silver in the only 1,500 he competed this season, and Mantia earned his first world cup medal — a gold — in a 1,500-meter race in Berlin in December.
“It’s such a privilege to be able to skate at the Olympics and represent your country,” Mantia said after his first career Olympic race. “I don’t even think I’ve come close to reaching my potential yet. I’m going to put this one behind me and race as good as I can in the 1,500. I’m looking forward to Saturday.”