Seeking gold and a Winter Olympics record, Shani Davis, stunningly, came up empty in his specialty event.
Davis’ shot at Olympic history ended just 2 1/2 laps into his 1,000-meter race, when he was so far behind it was clear he could not catch the leaders Wednesday at Adler Arena. Stefan Goothuis won gold for the Netherlands in the 1,000 meters, dashing the American’s hopes of becoming the first male speedskater to capture the same event at three straight Olympics.
Davis crossed the line more than seven-tenths of a second behind Groothuis’ winning time of 1 minute, 8.39 seconds.
On the cool-down lap from a performance that would leave him in eighth place, Davis simply stared at the ice — hood down, skates far apart. When the final pair was done, he went over to Groothuis and gave him a congratulatory slap on the back.
Groothuis, who has struggled with depression and once contemplated suicide, earned the fourth gold medal in five speedskating events for the Dutch at these Winter Games.
Davis’ time was 1:09.12 — a bitter disappointment for an American team that came to Sochi with high hopes but has yet to earn a spot on the podium. Brian Hansen of Glenview, Ill., was ninth and broke down in tears afterward. Joey Mantia of Ocala, Fla., was 15th and Jonathan Garcia of Houston placed 28th.
Davis was attempting to become only the third speedskater to three-peat in an event. Bonnie Blair of the U.S. won the women’s 500 at Calgary, Albertville and Lillehammer, while Germany’s Claudia Pechstein took gold in the women’s 5,000 at Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City. Blair and Pechstein remain alone in that select group.
Davis, 31, simply didn’t have the speed to match Groothuis.
The Chicago native skated in the 18th of 20 pairings, knowing the time he needed to beat. Groothuis, who went two groups earlier, could only watch as Davis spit on the ice, raised his left hand toward the ceiling and patted his chest with his right, trying to envision another gold-medal performance.
Davis was slightly off the pace at the 200 split and fell further and further back. At the 600 mark, he was 0.37 of a second behind Groothuis’ time and had no chance of making that up over the final lap. With his left arm slipping off his back, a sign he was tiring, Davis labored across the line with only the seventh-fastest time to that point. His chances for any were done.
Michel Mulder, the 500 champion, took the bronze, giving the Netherlands 10 out of a possible 15 medals overall through the first five events — a dominating performance that sets them up to crush the record for most speedskating medals by a country at a single Olympics. East Germany captured 13 medals at the 1988 Calgary Games.
The Dutch should breeze right on past that mark with seven events remaining, including some of their strongest races.
Canada’s Denny Morrison took the silver in 1:08.43. He wasn’t even scheduled to compete in the event but got in when a teammate gave up his spot. Mulder was third in 1:08.74, with his twin brother, Ronald, cheering him on from the stands.