Hedrick sounds a lot like Shani after last event
TORINO, Italy -- Before bidding farewell to speedskating and returning the sport to its regularly scheduled two sentences in the "Briefly" section, we bring you a few last comments from one half of the Olympics' Shaq and Kobe.
"You guys think more about Shani [Davis] and I more than I do. That's the truth," Chad Hedrick insisted after earning the silver medal in the men's 10,000 on Friday. "Shani and I are just out there skating fast. We're not worried about what each other is doing. We might have for one race because of this boiling point you guys pushed on us, but we went out and competed hard and went for the win.
"You guys haven't seen the last of Shani and I. We'll be in Vancouver, I'm sure. Everything is going to be fine. We're just competitors. We get along perfectly and if we're competing in the same race, neither of us wants to win bad enough."
So we've got that to look forward to, which is nice.
After criticizing Davis earlier for doing too little, Hedrick acknowledged Friday that he attempted too much here. Never lacking in confidence, Hedrick decided before the Olympics to race in five events and "try something spectacular" by winning gold in all five to match Eric Heiden's total in 1980. He won the first -- the 5,000 -- but went 0-for-4 after that. He said he'll probably drop a race from his schedule in 2010.
"It takes its toll," he said of the demanding schedule, adding "Eric Heiden is a freak of nature."
Hedrick felt the toll more than ever in the 10,000. He started off fast, bettering gold medalist Bob de Jong's time in the first five laps before tiring. Carl Verheijen of the Netherlands was closing steadily on Hedrick in the final quarter of the grueling 13-minute race, as well, but the Texan looked back with a withering Lance Armstrong glare and then sprinted away.
"I had a little advantage and I decided to rest and catch my breath and let him catch up to me a little," Hedrick said. "And as soon as he caught me, I started sprinting. That was my strategy. I knew I was three seconds down and racing for the silver medal."
The silver completed Hedrick's Torino collection -- gold, silver and bronze -- in a sport he only switched to from in-line skating three years ago. Still, he said he was disappointed he accomplished only 20 percent of his Olympic goal. That unrealistic goal ended early, when the U.S. failed to qualify for the finals in the team pursuit, which set off the whole soap opera; Hedrick saying Davis wasn't a team player and Shani saying his individual pursuits were more important.
Interestingly, Hedrick echoed Davis when telling why he thinks the pursuit should be held at the end of the Olympics not in the middle.
If it was, he said, "The feud wouldn't have happened, that's for sure. I think obviously individual events are the most important of all of them. I think maybe 10 percent of the people at the Olympics trained their whole lives toward winning a team event rather than an individual event. I think it would have been quite a bit different had the pursuit been last."
Shani and Chad might disagree, but the drama was good for the sport, bringing back the spotlight it has lacked since Dan Jansen was falling down every four years. And it didn't hurt that the men virtually carried the entire U.S. Olympic efforts by winning seven medals, including three golds.
"[The soap opera] might not be the reason you want to draw people to the sport," gold and silver medalist Joey Cheek said, "but if they watch it and enjoy it for whatever reason, then it's a good thing for us."
So this might be continued in four years in Vancouver. In the meantime, when next you read about Chad or Shani winning an international race, it will be buried underneath a very important item about the Dallas Mavericks promoting someone to vice president of marketing.
(We can only hope the next you read about Cheek, it will be in the national news section in an article about him running for U.S. Senator.)
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.