New Yorkers fall short at Olympic Trials
KEARNS, Utah – Shani Davis has all these youngsters nipping at his clapskates.
It just makes him want to go faster.
Davis, who attended Lake Placid Middle/High School while participating in a youth development program as a 16-year-old, will have a shot to make history at the Sochi Olympics after capturing another title in one of his signature events. He edged Brian Hansen by a hundredth of a second in the 1,000 meters at the U.S. speedskating trials on Dec. 29.
Davis won gold in that race at the last two Olympics.
Trevor Marsicano, a Schenectady native who has trained in Lake Placid over the years, finished sixth in the 1,000 and the 5.000. The top three finishers in both races earned a bid to the Sochi Games.
On the women’s side, Krissa Miller of Lake Placid finished 28th and 21st in 500-meter races at the trials to fall short of securing a spot in the Olympics. Miller, who was a figure skater and Lake Placid resident three years ago, switched to speedskating and moved to Utah.
Other New Yorkers competing in Olympic Trials were Petra Acker of Clifton Park who finished fourth in the 3,000 and Matthew Rittenhouse of Saratoga Springs who finished ninth in the 500.
No male skater has ever won the same event at three straight Winter Games.
“Any time I step out on the ice and I put my hood on, I have something to prove,” said Davis, who at 31 is preparing for what will likely be his final Olympics. “I’ve been doing it for 25 years. I just love being the position I’m in now. Years ago, I never would’ve thought I would be as good as I am now. I’m just so thankful that I’m here.”
Davis has locked up at least two events in Sochi, also claiming a spot in the 500, and is favored in the still-to-come 1,500, in which he won silver medals at the last two Olympics. In addition, there’s a chance he’ll take part in the team pursuit, a race he passed on at previous Olympics because he didn’t want to affect preparations for his individual events.
Today is an off day at the trials. The competition resumes the following day at the Utah Olympic Oval with the 1,500s, before wrapping up Wednesday with the women’s 5,000 and men’s 10,000.
After gliding around patiently on the backstretch, hands clasped behind his back during a two-minute television commercial break that delayed the start of the next-to-last pairing, Davis powered around the final turn for a time of 1 minute, 7.52 seconds.
The 23-year-old Hansen came up just short in the final group, crossing the line in 1:07.53.
“I’m the older brother to all these young guys,” Davis said. “I’m just trying to keep them at bay.”
Hansen respects what Davis means to the sport, but he’s eager to make his mark in Sochi.
“It’s exciting for me,” Hansen said. “I’m happy for Shani that he’s going for such a great achievement. At the same time, I’m hoping I can put down my best race come Sochi. That’s the nature of sport.”
Davis relishes the competition from a teammate.
“It’s only going to make us stronger,” he said. “They’re pushing me. I’m pushing them. We’re all striving to be the best we can be.”
On the women’s side, Heather Richardson beat Brittany Bowe in the 1,000 – a repeat of their 1-2 finish in the 500 on Saturday. The other two projected spots on the Olympic team went to Sugar Todd and Kelly Gunther, the latter completing her comeback from a gruesome ankle injury shortly after she just missed making the Vancouver Olympics.
“I can’t believe it,” Gunther said, “with everything I’ve been through and fighting back.”
Bowe is the world-record holder in the 1,000, setting the mark of 1:12.58 at the oval in suburban Salt Lake City just last month. She didn’t come close to that time at the trials, settling for the second spot in 1:13.93 and conceding she was worn down a bit after the grueling World Cup schedule.
Richardson’s winning time was 1:13.23. She and Bowe will go to Sochi as the favorites in the 1,000 – a role that Richardson relishes.
“Just remember to take deep breaths and relax and have fun,” she said. “That’s when I skate my best.”
Davis knows what it’s like to be an Olympic favorite.
In Sochi, he will attempt to join Bonnie Blair of the U.S. and Germany’s Claudia Pechstein as the only skaters to pull off a three-peat. Blair won the 500 in 1988, 1992 and 1994, while Pechstein took the 5,000 title in 1994, 1998 and 2002.
Further back in the standings, everyone cheered the gutsy performance turned in by Jonathan Garcia, who was disqualified the previous day in the 500 for not wearing his timing transponders, after skating fast enough to make the Olympic team. The Texan came back to finish fourth in the 1,000 at 1:07.96, good enough again to claim the first Olympic berth of his career.
This time it counted.
Joey Mantia also is going to the Olympics for the first time after taking third in 1:07.88.
Garcia smiled and held up a transponder in each hand for the cheering crowd. No way he was forgetting the devices this time.
“I didn’t let it get to me,” Garcia said. “In my mind, I truly believed that I already made the team.”