Something happened at the showdown between Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick: Enrico Fabris of Italy doused the smoldering U.S. rivalry by winning Olympic gold in men's 1,500-meter speedskating Tuesday.
Davis earned silver and Hedrick settled for bronze.
"Shani and I both wanted to win the race," Hedrick said. "We both wanted to prove who was the best, but someone else slipped in there and got it."
Fabris posted a time of 1 minute, 45.97 seconds, then waited anxiously to see if any of the remaining four pairs could better him on the slow ice.
"It was difficult to believe it would hold," said Fabris, who works as a policeman between training. "I started quite slow and the other skaters after me started very fast. You have to keep some strength for the final lap. So I did it."
Davis, the former world record holder, went in the final pair, knowing full well the time he had to beat. He finished in 1:46.13.
"I couldn't hold it together mentally," Davis said about the final 200 meters. "I couldn't finish the race the way I needed to physically."
So focused was he on the task ahead, Hedrick didn't acknowledge the cheers for his introduction. He skated in the next-to-last pair, covering 3 3/4 laps in 1:46.22, going much slower on his last lap than Fabris.
Typically, Hedrick's strength is his closing lap when he powers across the ice. But the Texan, who holds the 1,500 world record, knew he wasn't going to win when he crossed the line, shaking his head. He skated a cooldown lap with his hands on his knees, staring down at the ice.
"I didn't feel great," he said. "I didn't have good tempo coming out of the turns."
Fabris broke the American hold on gold medals at these games, becoming the first non-U.S. skater to win one in an individual men's race. It was Fabris' second gold, having helped the Italians win the team pursuit. He also won bronze in the 5,000.
While Fabris and Davis skated a victory lap together, an irritated Hedrick plopped down and took off his skates.
"I was pushing a little harder to beat Shani," Hedrick said. "We were focused on each other, we were not focused on Enrico."
Fellow American Joey Cheek, who finished ninth, said he was surprised at Fabris' victory.
"I had thought it would be between Shani and Chad, but if I knew what was going to happen, I'd be a gambler," he said.
Davis said he wasn't only trying to beat Hedrick, reports AP.
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