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Monday, February 10, 2014
Men's 500m good practice for Shani Davis

By Jim Caple

SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. speedskater Shani Davis said he knew he didn’t have much chance to win Monday’s 500-meter race, but he came away feeling good because of how his performance set him up for Wednesday’s 1,000 meters.

“I got some Olympic racing experience," he said of his 24th-place finish. “I worked on some speed a bit for the 1,000. I got some good practice on the inner and the outer lanes, and we just have to put it together Wednesday and see what happens then.”

Shani Davis
Davis used the 500 meters as a warm-up for the Wednesday's 1,000.

Davis, of course, already has considerable Olympic racing experience. He has won four medals, including gold in the 1,000 in 2006 and 2010. If he wins Wednesday, he will become the first man to win that event in three different Olympics. He said those previous gold medals do not make the upcoming 1,000 any easier.

“No, because people are shooting for me, and I have the biggest target on my back," he said. “People really strive to beat me. That’s all they really train and aim for in the 1,000 men’s. That’s what they aim for, and my job is to defend it, and defending is always harder than being on offense.

“I’ll have a lot on my shoulders, but I’ll do the best I can. I’m in the best shape I could possibly be in. And if it’s meant for me to win that race, I will."

Speedskating is a national pastime in the Netherlands, and the orange-clad Dutch fans had much to cheer about Monday when they swept the 500 podium. Michel Mulder beat Jan Smeekens by just one-hundredth of a second for the gold while his twin brother, Ronald, took the bronze. Davis was the top American.

The sport will never be anywhere near as popular in the U.S., but with a victory Wednesday, Davis would join the elite club of U.S. skaters who are household names in America: Eric Heiden, Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen. Davis said he isn’t thinking about that legacy right now, though.

“I’m just out there living a dream I set for myself when I was a kid," he said. “I’m just trying to skate fast. And I’m trying to meet those demands among the hundreds of people doing the same thing. And I’m trying to stay ahead of them."