There were a thousand storylines going into the men’s Olympic long track final at the Richmond Oval in Vancouver, Wednesday.
Defending champion Shani Davis reserved the top headline, winning his second straight gold medal in the men’s 1,000 metres.
“It’s always nice to go out there and do it again,” Davis told the Associated Press.
Davis, the 1,000m World Record holder, skated a time of 1:08.94 to deny 500m champion Mo Tae-Bum a second gold medal of these Winter Games. The South Korean won silver with a time of 1:09.12.
South Korea has already doubled its Olympic all-time medal count in long track, after reaching the podium for the fourth time these Games.
Canada’s top contender Denny Morrison finished in 1:10.30, leaving him in 13th place, ahead teammate Jeremy Wotherspoon, who placed 14th in his final Olympic appearance with a time of 1:10.35.
François-Olivier Roberge of St-Nicolas, Que., and Kyle Parrott of Minnedosa, Man., finished 20th and 24th respectively, with times of 1:10.75 and 1:10.89.
Chad Hedrick of the U.S. captured the bronze, skating the 1,000m in 1:09.32. Hedrick, the 2006 Turin gold medallist in the 5,000m, added to the impressive Olympic resume he and countryman Davis have put together.
The two skaters have now accounted for seven medals in the past two Winter Games, including three gold.
“We’re proud to put a few more medals on the table of the Americans,” Hedrick said.
But the night belonged to Davis, who withdrew from the 500m race after the first heat to prepare for the 1,000m.
“He drew on his inner wisdom,” said Nathaniel Mills, the former U.S. Olympic speedskater and spokesperson for Davis in Vancouver. “It was just preparation.”
“If he had been in medal contention, he would have pushed through.”
In 2006, Davis became the first African-American to win an individual gold in the Winter Games and entered Vancouver having gone undefeated in the World Cup circuit this season. Davis, racing in the final pair, was behind Mo’s time after 200m and 600m intervals, before excelling down the stretch as he is known to do.
“I could have done better,” Mo told the Associated Press through a translator. “Shani had the greater technique in turning the corners.”
With a sell-out crowd and country behind him, Wotherspoon failed to deliver an improbable farewell.
The 33-year-old entered these Games boasting an all-time record of 67 World Cups victories and an Olympic silver medal at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Wotherspoon went into Salt Lake as the favourite in the 500m but stumbled and fell out of the gate in the first heat, dashing any hopes of a podium finish. He would place a disappointing 13th in the 1,000m five days later.
A native of Red Deer, Alta., Wotherspoon was looking for the elusive gold to cement the legacy of one of the sport’s most decorated competitors. He finished ninth in the 500m Monday.
Morrison, a friend and former training partner of Davis, was considered a podium threat despite never finishing higher than third in the 1,000m.
The 25-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., will look for better success in his top event, the 1,500m race Saturday at the Oval.