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Kearns • Armed with three straight victories and some of the fastest times ever, speedskater Shani Davis already has affirmed that he will be the clear favorite to win his middle-distance specialties at the upcoming Sochi Olympics in Russia.
And he might throw a little wrinkle in there, too.
The two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder made a rare appearance in the team pursuit event Saturday at the World Cup stop at the Utah Olympic Oval he helped the Americans finish second, after winning gold in the individual 1,000 meters and said he'd like to race the event in Sochi, giving him a chance at three gold medals.
"It's at the end of the Olympics," he said. "So all the other distances are out of the way, and if I'm one of the strongest guys, out of the four people there, I'll be more than happy to do it."
That prospect is especially noteworthy because it was the team pursuit event that led to his notoriously miserable experience at the 2006 Turin Olympics in Italy.
Davis had never planned to compete in the event he has seldom raced it, even in the years since but fellow American Chad Hedrick harshly criticized him for not participating, saying it cost the Americans a medal (at a time when Hedrick was aiming to win five himself). That led to a bitter feud between the two that spanned the whole Olympics and overshadowed a tremendous seven-medal performance by the American men.
That was a long time ago, though, and the Americans clearly are seeking every possible edge for Sochi.
They won silver in the event at the 2010 Vancouver Games in Canada with Hedrick joining Brian Hansen, Jonathan Kuck and Trevor Marsicano on the team. In pursuit, three skaters race together at one time, but teams have four people on their roster and can alter their lineups from round to round in the Olympics.
Finishing times are based on when the third skater crosses the line.
Hansen, Kuck and Marsicano remain the core of the pursuit team, but adding Davis could cement them as a top contender against the powerful Netherlands, which set a world record of 3:35.60 in victory on Saturday.
"This is a trial-and-error process now," Davis said, "of just seeing who works well with who."
Obviously, they worked pretty well on Saturday.
On another day that featured a slew of national records and personal-best performances by Brittany Bowe, Heather Richardson, Brian Hansen and Mitch Whitmore, Davis capped it by helping Hansen and Kuck finish second in an American-record 3:37.22, just 0.05 seconds off the previous world record that the Dutch set last weekend in the season-opener in Calgary.
By then, Davis already had won his third straight race of the season and second straight 1,000, in 1:06.88, the best time in the world since late 2009, when he clocked 1:06.67 here. Hansen was close behind in third in 1:07.03 he was second behind Davis in the 1,500 on Friday while Whitmore was sixth in 1:07.52, by far the best of his career.
"If we figure out a couple of details in how it gets done and me and Shani both had 1,000s in our legs I think with the right execution, we could have a really good team pursuit come Sochi," Hansen said.
Bowe and Richardson once again shared the podium, finishing second and third, respectively, in the fastest women's 1,500 since Canada's Cindy Klassen set the world record of 1:51.79 eight years ago. Bowe finished in 1:52.45, with Richardson clocking 1:52.55 to go along with a silver-medal performance in the second of two 500s contested over the weekend.
In the first one Friday, Richardson finished third in 36.97 to become just the fourth woman to finish under 37 seconds, while South Korea's Sang-Hwa Lee broke her own world record. Lee did it again on Saturday, tearing an amazing 0.21 seconds off her old mark to finish in 36.36 while Richardson also improved her national record to 36.90.
World Cup results
O At the Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns
Gold • Sang-Hwa Lee, South Korea, 36.36
Silver • Heather Richardson, USA, 36.90
Bronze • Olga Fatkulina, Russia, 37.13
Gold • Shani Davis, USA, 1:06.88
Silver • Kjeld Nuis, Netherlands, 1:07.02
Bronze • Brian Hansen, USA, 1:07.03
Gold • Irene Wust, Netherlands, 1:52.08
Silver • Brittany Bowe, USA, 1:52.45
Bronze • Heather Richardson, USA, 1:52.55
Men's team pursuit
Gold • Netherlands, 3:35.60
Silver • USA, 3:37.22
Bronze • South Korea, 3:37.51