SOCHI, Russia — In a monumental upset, Shani Davis lost his chance at Olympic history after the Netherlands' Stefan Groothuis claimed gold in the men's 1,000 meters, well ahead of the 31-year-old American, who finished well behind the top group in eighth place.
His non-medal finish stands as one of the most unfathomable results of these Sochi Games: Davis had owned the event since the 2006 Torino Games, when he claimed the first of two Olympic gold medals in a row, and entered the 1,000 final as the clear favorite among a top-heavy list of skaters.
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With a win in the 1,000, Davis would have become the first male speed skater to claim gold in the same event in three consecutive Olympic Games. Instead, it was the Netherlands – again – which came home atop the medal podium.
After finishing fourth in the 1,000 at the 2013 world championships – an event where Davis placed bronze – Groothuis skated a time of 1:08.39, a new track record at Adler Arena. Denny Morrison of Canada, who took silver, finished in 1:08.43, while Michael Mulder of the Netherlands finished third at 1:08.74.
Groothuis' gold-winning heat came in the 16th pair, when he was teamed with Germany's Nico Ihle.
In an event where USA was expected to shine, Davis's eighth-place finish (1:09.12) led the way. Just behind Davis was Brian Hansen (1:09.21), who finished ninth, followed by Joey Mantia (1:09.72) in 15th and Jonathan Garcia (1:10.74) in 28th.
It's easy – and for USA, painful – to compare the performance of America's top skaters with the Netherlands' bulldozer-like bullying of all skating competition. Of the nine medals awarded in men's speed skating, eight have gone to the Dutch.
With Davis falling short of expectations, the list of Winter Games athletes who won the same event at three Olympics in a row remains a small one – and all female.
Across all Winter events, this feat has been achieved only by Norway's Sonja Henie, who won gold in figure skating in 1928, 1932 and 1936; USA's Bonnie Blair in the speed skating 500 meters in 1988, 1992 and 1994; and Germany's Claudia Pechstein in the 5,000 in 1994, 1998 and 2002.