Two U.S. Olympic gold medal speed skaters have gotten a lot of publicity by the American media at the Turin Winter Games because of their reported unfriendly rivalry. Other international reporters got a feel for what's been stirring between Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis when the two had to attend a news conference together as medalists in the men's 1500 meters Tuesday.
Long track speed skaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis don't get along. And it's not because Hedrick is white and Davis is black. It's more how they view their sport and the team concept.
Hedrick won the first gold medal for the United States at the Turin Olympics with a victory in the 5000 meters. Davis took the 1000 meters, becoming the first black in history to win an individual gold medal in the Winter Games.
Long track speed skating has always been an individual event. But for these Olympics the I.O.C. added a team pursuit race. It features three athletes from one nation skating together around the oval chasing another team, much like the pursuit event in track cycling.
Hedrick felt Davis should have joined him on the U.S. pursuit team to give the Americans the best chance for a medal. Davis declined, wanting to focus on his individual races. The U.S. failed to win a medal.
That did not sit well with Hedrick. "You know we're all part of Team USA here. We had a great opportunity to win the team pursuit race, and I felt betrayed in a way, not only that Shani did not participate in it, but he didn't even discuss it with me, and you know, as the leader of the team, I felt like we passed up a medal," he said.
Davis, on the other hand, was not happy that he was being portrayed by many as the uncooperative bad guy. "I don't appreciate it at all. I skate and train hard, as hard as I train for people to make out things that are false. People, for real need to stop that because that's not fair. It's not what the sport is about," he said.
Chad Hedrick countered. "The Americans at home, and you know a lot of people around the world, want to see a battle. They want to know who the top two contenders are. They want to see them go at it and see who's the best. And it's up to us to not take it personal, and to go out there and perform our best," he said.
Their best was not good enough to win gold in the men's 1500 meters. They were upstaged by Italian Enrico Fabris, who won the gold medal before the adoring fans of his home country. Shani Davis bettered his teammate and rival winning the silver, as Chad Hedrick had to settle for the bronze.
It was clear after their post-race news conference, when they sat a good distance apart, that their feud is not over.
But only Hedrick plans to skate the final men's long track race here on Friday, which is the 10,000 meters.