Ohno wins 500, 1,000; Davis fails in short track attempt
MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Shani Davis felt a bump as he leaned into the high-speed curve. Then his blades began to wobble, his legs began to shake. And just like that, he was sliding across the ice on his belly.
So much for the dream of competing on two speedskating teams at the same Olympics.
Davis' bid to become the first American skater to pull off the double ended Friday night when he fell in the semifinals of the 1,000 meters, the final event of the national short track championships.
"I wanted to go out with a fight," Davis said. "Unfortunately, something bad happened. That's part of speedskating. I accept it."
While Apolo Anton Ohno was leaving all his countrymen behind -- get ready, America, for another soul-patched Olympics -- Davis needed a huge closing night to sneak his way onto the short track team.
Already a world record-holder on the long track and pre-qualified for that U.S. team, Davis gave himself hope with a third-place finish in the 500, his best showing of the four-day meet.
The final event was the 1,000, which just happens to be the distance where he's the world's best racing the clock on the big oval.
But this is short track -- pack-style racing confined to a hockey rink, where the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Davis looks a bit out of place going against much-shorter competitors who have an easier time making it through the tight turns and pulling off risky passes.
Jockeying for position with Rusty Smith, Anthony Lobello and Misi Toth in the middle of a turn, Davis appeared to strike one of the small, black markers with his left blade. He stumbled briefly, tried to catch himself but fell face down as he entered the straightaway.
"I'm not sure what happened," Davis said.
He bounced up quickly and skated all out the final two laps but there was nothing he could do.
"When I recovered," Davis said, "everyone was gone."
After finishing far behind in fourth, he coasted around the ice waving to the cheering crowd at Northern Michigan University, where the 23-year-old Chicago native attends classes and does much of his training. Once he stepped off the ice, he hugged fellow skater Jordan Malone and appeared close to tears.
Davis returned to the ice one more time for the consolation final. He sent the crowd into a frenzy when he stuck his skate over the line for the win, though it only meant he finished fifth in the event.
"It's bittersweet," Davis said. "I was looking for that all week and I couldn't find it. I found it on the last night."
Then it was time to cede the spotlight to Ohno, the charismatic darling of the last Winter Games. He won both the 500 and the 1,000 on the meet's final night, giving him seven victories in eight events. Next stop -- Turin, where he figures to be a major medal contender.
"I want to get on the podium," Ohno said. "That's what it's all about. I want to grab some medals."
In 2002, Ohno won gold and silver in dramatic races that made him one of the most recognizable figures to emerge from Salt Lake City. He has similar aspirations for these Olympics, though he's smart enough not to set any firm medal goals.
"Not in this sport," he said. "It's impossible to count on anything."
That said, Ohno was totally dominant at the U.S. championships and will go to Turin as a marked man for the powerful teams from South Korea and China. Both have more depth than the U.S. contingent, and Ohno's father believes the Asian countries will gang up on the American star, hoping to keep him off the medal stand.
"The Chinese and Korean teams are so deep, they do team skating all the time," Yuki Ohno said. "It's just common for them. They don't think there's anything wrong with it. They're like, 'So what? What did we do?' We're like, 'That's illegal.'"
No one could catch Ohno at the national championships, which also served as the Olympic trials. He piled up 225 points -- finishing second in the only event he didn't win -- and beat runner-up Smith by a staggering 156½ points.
The top five earn a trip to Turin. Ohno and Smith, a two-time Olympian who had 68½ points, will be joined by Alex Izykowski (61½), J.P Kepka (59) and Lobello (50). Davis settled for sixth overall but far behind Lobello with 29½.
The competition was tighter on the women's side, though 17-year-old Kim Hyo-jung clearly emerged as the most likely medal hopeful for the Olympics. A South Korean native who only began training with the American team two years ago -- she has dual citizenship -- Kim won the overall title with 191 points.
Ohno's girlfriend, Allison Baver, claimed the second spot with 152 points, followed by Kimberly Derrick (82), Maria Garcia (62) and Caroline Hallisey (45½).
"We are one of the countries that will be a metal contender," Baver said. "Definitely."
On the final night, Baver picked up her first win of the championships in the 500 and then settled for second behind Kim in the 1,000. The teen was very impressive -- especially when she revealed afterward that she was bothered by a sore right Achilles.
"It was such a hard time for me," Kim said. "It was throbbing during sleep and woke me up."
Ohno will skate all three individual events -- the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 -- at the Olympics. Lobello earned the other U.S. spot in the 500, Smith in the 1,000 and Izykowski in the 1,500. Kepka, a member of the 2002 Olympic team, is the only man who won't skate individually; he'll have to count on a spot in the relays if he's to get on the ice.
As for the women, Kim earned an Olympic spot in all three individual races, joined by Baver at 500 and 1,500. Derrick earned the other individual spot in the 1,000, while Garcia and Hallisey are eligible only for the relays.
Amy Peterson's bid to make her sixth Olympic team came up short.
"I didn't give myself a whole lot of time for this comeback," the 34-year-old skater said. "I got the bug to race again and I figured in four years I would be too old."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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