Commentary

Shani and Chad, so happy together

Updated: February 18, 2010, 2:00 AM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

RICHMOND, British Columbia -- Shani Davis and American skating rival Chad Hedrick couldn't even share a peaceful news conference together in 2006 at the Torino Olympics. But after winning gold and bronze medals in the men's 1,000 meters Wednesday, they smiled and laughed together, raised the Stars and Stripes together, and talked about returning to the podium together in Saturday's 1,500-meter race. And after that, who knows. The way things are going, maybe they'll open a B&B together.

[+] EnlargeShani Davis and Chad Hedrick
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty ImagesShani Davis, left, and Chad Hedrick were together again on the Olympic podium Wednesday, this time without the drama.

"We have so much pride in going out and competing against each other," Hedrick said. "Me congratulating him after the race and him and I getting together and carrying the American flag together shows that people misread us. We just want to win, man. We just want to make people at home proud. That's what it's all about. All that stuff before, that's old news. We're out here having fun. We're living our dream. We worked four years for this, and we're not going to let anything silly ruin it."

Davis wasn't nearly as effusive about this new relationship, though he did acknowledge it was good to raise the flag with Hedrick on the podium. Whatever, it was all just part of a long victory celebration.

"It's my moment, it's my party," said Davis, who defended his 2006 gold medal in a time of 1:08.94. "Like the girl who says she can cry if she wants to, I can party if I want to. It's my party, I can celebrate, I can dance, I can do whatever I want. I earned it."

So it was a good day, with Davis reigning jointly with peace and harmony. Heck, even the Zamboni arrived to resurface the ice in wondrous combination with one of those malfunctioning electric Olympia ice resurfacing machines.

The Olympia machines are environmentally friendly, not only because they run on electricity but also apparently because they don't run, period. Frustrated rink officials had a Zamboni trucked in all the way from Calgary, Alberta -- and you wonder why the Olympics cost so much? -- and it resurfaced the ice alongside an Olympia machine, with the Zamboni identification appropriately covered. Because after all, you wouldn't want people knowing the manufacturer of a machine that actually works.

"I'm a firm believer in fossil fuels," TV personality Stephen Colbert told ESPN.com when asked about trucking a 3-ton Zamboni 600 miles to replace an environmentally friendly machine. "I'm glad they killed this whole green thing. I wonder if it affected the skaters. If it did, Al Gore owes someone an apology."

Colbert, who helped raise $300,000 for U.S. speedskating, cheered on Davis and Hedrick from the rink while wearing a red track jacket with "ASSISTANT SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST" written on the back. He taped a segment for "The Colbert Report" in which he challenged -- and lost -- a 500-meter race against Davis despite being spotted an 18-minute head start. Asked whether he thought he could beat the Zamboni, Colbert said, "I would like to try. I'd like to lie down in front of it to see if it could make me smooth. It would be dermabrasion and also lower the swelling at the same time. That would be great. That would be a very expensive spa procedure, to get viciously Zambonied."

[+] EnlargeStephen Colbert
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesTip of the hat? Wag of the finger? No, Stephen Colbert was just cheering on the U.S. speedskaters Wednesday.

David and Hedrick must have felt they were viciously Zambonied in Torino four years ago when their rivalry turned into a very public and occasionally ugly feud. Hedrick said he felt betrayed by Davis at one news conference, which Davis abruptly walked out of after saying, "It would have been nice after the 1,000 meters if Chad shook my hand."

There was no such problem this time. Hedrick not only shook hands with Davis but also lavished so much praise on his old rival that Davis probably tested positive for it during doping checks.

"It's just been a process," Hedrick said of their relationship. "Shani and I just respect each other as athletes. You can see it, you can see it in our eyes. I feel like our parade was rained on a little bit last time. We left with five medals between two of us. Five! We felt awesome about ourselves and I just hope people will look at us in a different light and think, 'Those guys are great athletes' rather than wonder who wants to fight who."

When the green machine broke down and caused more than an hour delay in Monday's 500-meter race, Davis opted to drop out so he could save his energy for Wednesday. Perhaps that decision paid off -- Davis beat silver medalist Tae-Bum Mo of Korea by just .18 of a second, and he needed a strong finish to do so. He even briefly pumped both arms to keep his speed up in the closing section.

"Obviously, [skipping the 500] was probably the right thing to do because it helped me with my speed today," Davis said. "Maybe skipping the 500 allowed me to recover, and I needed all that strength and energy for the final lap of the 1,000. Without that, maybe I'm not a gold medalist right now."

Hear that, Colbert Nation? Maybe it's Davis who owes Gore something. Meanwhile, here's a convenient truth: Davis is the first American male speedskater to successfully defend a gold medal from one Olympics to the next.

"In 2006, I was attacking," David said. "I hadn't been part of the Olympic movement or history, so I was on the offensive. And today, I was on the defense. I had the target on my back, and I was able to defend what I've been defending for four years -- the 1,000-meter tile -- and I'm extremely happy and beyond words to explain it."

So there you go. Everyone is happy. If Davis and Hedrick and Zamboni and Olympia can all smooth things over on the ice, perhaps there is a lesson for the rest of us. Or at least for Leno and Conan.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is at jimcaple.net.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com