Davis, Nesbitt complete middle-distance sweeps

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KEARNS (AP) -- Shani Davis is heading into the Vancouver Olympics on a roll, having broken a world record and won two titles in three days at the final long-track speedskating World Cup before the games.

The American won the 1,000 meters in 1 minute, 6.67 seconds Sunday at the Utah Olympic Oval, again beating rival Chad Hedrick, who was fifth.

"I'm really excited. Skating's been really good, strong performances, consistent performances," he said, speaking to U.S. media for the first time in three days.

Davis won the 1,500 on Friday, lowering his own world record by eight-tenths of a second. He also owns the world mark in the 1,000, but didn't come close to breaking it on the final day of competition.

"I've never been in the shape that I've been in and it just goes to show that I'm really strong," he said. "I just hope that I can continue to keep this momentum throughout the season and Vancouver."

Davis clinched Olympic berths in the 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 5,000. However, he is only firmly committed to his favorite events, the 1,000 and 1,500, and the team pursuit -- the first time he's publicly confirmed he would participate in the event.

Davis famously chose not to participate in the team pursuit at the 2006 Turin Olympics, touching off a heated feud between him and Hedrick.

At that time, Davis said all along he didn't want to skate the pursuit, believing the first-time Olympic event would hurt his individual races. He became the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Games.

Hedrick -- who entered five events -- felt Davis let down his country by skipping a chance to give the Americans another speedskating medal.

With Davis on the sideline, the U.S. team had to use a slower skater and was eliminated in the early rounds.

Hedrick owns the only U.S. berth in the 10,000, but if he decides not to compete in the grueling race, then Davis could claim the spot as the first alternate. However, Davis indicated that was unlikely, saying, "I just have no ambitions or motivations to skate a 10,000. I'm a middle-distance skater." Skaters have until Dec. 24 to commit to specific events.

Skating in Sunday's final pairing, Davis used his trademark speed in the turns to clock the fastest time among 20 skaters.

He was cheered on by short-track star and friend Apolo Anton Ohno, who also trains at the oval.

"He was giving me his view on my race which was pretty nice," Davis said. "He gave me some tips and some advice."

Lee Kyou-Hyuk of South Korea, who won Saturday's 500, was second in 1:07.07. Mika Poutala of Finland took third in 1:07.24.

Skating two pairs earlier, Hedrick clocked 1:07.33, a personal best by nearly a second.

"My race was very disciplined," he said. "In this sport, you can try too hard and then you can try to skate too technical sometimes. You have to hit that happy medium where you go out there and you're firing on all cylinders, but you're still holding it together and not panicking."

Hedrick earned Olympic berths in the 1,000, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000, and could be part of the three-man entry for the team pursuit.

"I gained confidence," he said of his results. "I gained a little more respect from all my fellow athletes as well. They know that Chad Hedrick's improved a lot over the past two weeks."

Davis beat Hedrick in Friday's 1,500. Hedrick was sixth in Saturday's 5,000 -- three spots ahead of Davis.

"Shani is still skating good and that's the man I have to beat," Hedrick said. "I'm not worried about many other people. I know if I beat him that I got a chance at winning or doing really well."

Christine Nesbitt of Canada matched Davis' feat on the women's side, claiming the 1,000 to go with her title in the 1,500 a day earlier. She won in 1:13.36.

Wang Beixing of China was second in 1:14.01, and Nao Kodaira of Japan took third in 1:14.17.

Heather Richardson was the top American finisher, in ninth place. Two-time Olympian Jennifer Rodriguez was 10th and Elli Ochowicz 13th.

Rodriguez, who finished third in the 1,500, earned berths in three individual events in Vancouver, giving her a shot at finally earning her first Olympic medal.

Russia won the six-lap women's team pursuit in 2:57.18. Canada's trio of Nesbitt, Kristina Groves and Cindy Klassen was second in 2:57.35. Germany was third.

The U.S. team of Rodriguez, Jilleanne Rookard and Catherine Raney Norman was seventh in 2:59.38.

The eight-lap men's team pursuit was won by Norway in 3:39.55. Italy was second in 3:39.72 and Canada third. The American team of Brian Hansen, Jonathan Kuck and Trevor Marsicano was seventh.

The United States qualified a full quota of skaters in all but three of the 10 Olympic long-track events. The Americans will have fewer spots in the women's 1,500 and 5,000, and the men's 10,000.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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BETH HARRIS Sports Writer


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