Sochi Olympics: U.S. speedskaters avoid shutout with silver in men’s 5,000-meter relay
SOCHI, Russia — U.S. long-track speedskaters began the Olympics with expectations of several podium trips.
But it’s the short trackers who are going home with the hardware.
The men’s 5,000-meter relay team took silver, giving its beleaguered national program its only medal at the Winter Olympics.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but for us, for U.S. Speedskating and for long and short track, we’re going to be strong, we’re going to bring that medal home,” Chris Creveling, 27, said.
Russia won the gold, pulling ahead at the Iceberg Skating Palace with about six laps to go. The race was essentially between the U.S. and Russia after China, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan fell behind in the first lap when skaters fell. China took bronze.
“To go home to the U.S. not empty-handed, is awesome — cha-ching,” a jubilant Eddy Alvarez said, pumping his fist and grinning. “The pressure was definitely building, but we all came together.”
The men’s relay team won two races this World Cup season. But not much was expected at the Games after nearly two years of turmoil and changes at U.S. Speedskating that included a skate-tampering scandal and athletes training in three different groups before an organizational overhaul.
Long track thought it was in a good position after its skaters took 28 medals during the World Cup season. The world’s top-ranked male skater, Shani Davis, and the top- and second-ranked women skaters, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, were considered strong contenders
Their best finish was seventh place. Earlier, Davis summed up the Olympics for his teammates after the U.S. was knocked out of medal contention in the team pursuit.
“I hope that that was my last race here in Sochi,” he said with a chuckle.
This was the first time the long-track team has not won a medal since 1984.
“This is something that’s going to stick with me for a long time,” said Davis, 31, a four-time Olympic medalist. “I’m a pretty resilient guy, been through a lot of stuff. This is going to be a tough one to kind of get over.”
Davis, Jonathan Kuck and Brian Hansen were eliminated from team competition when they lost to Canada.
Richardson, Bowe and Jilleanne Rookard lost to a red-hot Dutch team that has captured an Olympic-record 22 speedskating medals.
Bowe said that despite the struggles on and off the ice here, she and her teammates remained positive and worked together.
“All of the outside things — so be it,” Bowe said. “We leave it all on the track. Today was definitely a good day for the women.”
In other races, short-track skater Jessica Smith finished fourth in the women’s 1,000 final. Emily Scott didn’t advance out of the quarterfinal. Park Seung-Hi of Korea took gold, China’s Fan Kexin won silver and Korea’s Shim Suk Hee bronze.
J.R. Celski finished fourth in the men’s 500 semifinals. Gold went to Russia’s Victor An, silver to Wu Dajing of China and bronze to Canada’s Charle Cournoyer.
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