Hedrick wins 1,500 in 1:44.47
MILWAUKEE -- Two races. Four miles. Dead even.
Chad Hedrick got back at rival Shani Davis, setting a new track record Saturday to win the 1,500 meters at the U.S. speedskating trials.
Hedrick beat Davis by two-hundredths of a second -- the same margin that Davis nipped Hedrick in the 5,000 two days earlier. So, it's one victory apiece -- and the exact same cumulative time -- going into their final head-to-head meeting of the trials, the grueling 10,000 on Sunday.
"That's amazing, guys," a beaming Hedrick told reporters. "It's unbelievable to go four miles and be that consistent competing with each other. That what it's going to take for him and I. We've got lot of people targeting us for the Olympics. Man, we've got to go out there and hustle."
Davis wasn't happy losing, but he was certainly pleased with his time at an oval where the conditions are similar to the new Olympic rink in suburban Vancouver. Both facilities are at sea level, which produces slower times than high-altitude tracks such as Salt Lake City and Calgary.
"That was a really, really good race for me," said Davis, who holds the world record in both the 1,000 and 1,500. "Under 1:45 here is really incredible. It shows the strength and type of fitness I have now. I'm really happy to be in the position I am now.
"This is a bit of a message we're delivering to the whole world by skating 1:44s here -- in October, before the World Cups and before the Olympics. It's pretty scary."
They were two of the biggest U.S. stars at the 2006 Turin Games, where Hedrick won a medal of every color and Davis became the black athlete to capture gold at the Winter Olympics. But they also went through a highly publicized feud that bubbled over at a news conference following the 1,500, in which Davis claimed the silver and Hedrick a bronze.
It looks as though they'll be just as close in Vancouver when they're on the ice -- and both plan on getting along better when they take off the skates.
"It would be a great story for him and I to really enjoy it," Hedrick said. "We just want to make our country happy. I feel like the last time, we worked so hard for Americans to be proud of us, and everything happened, and it kind of went south from there."
Davis is certainly looking forward to a better experience. He made the short-track team in 2002 but was embroiled in allegations that a fixed race gave him his spot, and he didn't get to skate anyway once he got to Salt Lake City. His performance in Turin should have been a crowning achievement, but the nastiness with Hedrick made it impossible to savor his accomplishments.
"I want to enjoy the Olympics," Davis said. "One out of three would be nice. I haven't had the best Olympics, having fun-wise. But every day, I'm having more and more fun."
Hedrick won with a time of 1 minute, 44.47 seconds, beating the Pettit National Ice Center record that Davis set almost a year ago, 1:44.48. Davis was just off the old record, finishing in 1:44.49.
"I'm trying to work my way back to the top," said the 32-year-old Hedrick, who hasn't been on the podium at a major international meet since Italy. "That's a big step for me. It's tough to beat him."
Another American hopes to get in the mix, as well. Twenty-year-old Trevor Mariscano, a rising star in the program, bounced back from a disappointing performance in the 5,000 to finish third in 1:46.96.
All three claimed spots on the World Cup team, along with fourth-place Jonathan Kuck (1:47.51) and fifth-place Brian Hansen (1:47.61) -- a necessary step for earning a trip to Vancouver. The U.S. Olympic squad will be picked based on the results of five World Cup meets.
On the women's side, three-time Olympian Jennifer Rodriguez wrapped up a successful week by qualifying in her third event. She easily won the 1,500 in 1:58.45, finishing more than 1½ seconds ahead of runner-up Jilleanne Rookard (2:01.07). Maria Lamb (2:01.55) and Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. (2:01.65) also made the World Cup team.
"I was happy today," said Rodriguez, who came out of retirement to earn spots in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500. "It was by far the best race I skated all week."
Hedrick and Davis know they'll be seeing a lot of each other over the next two months. Maybe they'll cap off their rivalry by meeting on the medal podium in Vancouver.
"Over the past four years or so, whether it's good attention, bad attention, whatever, when we get to the rink we know we're going to have to deal with each other," Hedrick said. "We know we have to beat one another and it's not going to be easy, whether it's him beating me or me beating him.
"When you can't take it easy and you always have to be on your toes, it has to make you better."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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