What's the deal?
A man apart or a man alone
No reason for Chad Hedrick to try and spoil Shani Davis' party
By TIM DAHLBERG, AP Sports Columnist
TURIN, Italy (AP) -- The stories coming out of the Olympic speedskating oval Saturday night were about as feel-good as they get.See, you don't know what is going on here. He could be a selfish asshole, he could have sucked down years of abuse and infighting in the sport.
There was Shani Davis winning the first individual gold medal by a black athlete in Winter Olympics history by racing to victory in the men's 1,000.
And there was Joey Cheek finishing just behind, then donating his $15,000 reward from the U.S. Olympic Committee to give impoverished kids a place to play.
When Bud Greenspan produces his latest Olympic film, these will be the tearjerkers, the stories that make you want to believe that the Olympics are really what the snobby elite who run them want you to believe. These are real athletes with real Olympic dreams that don't need to be manufactured by NBC.
Davis spent 17 years as an outcast in a primarily white sport, hoping the whole time that someday he would be able to hold an Olympic gold medal. He did, and was joined on the podium by a guy whose idea of glory is being able to help kids who can't help themselves.
Hedrick, if you haven't heard, doesn't think much of Davis. Thinks even less of him now because Davis declined an invitation to skate in the team pursuit earlier this week and may have cost Hedrick -- who already has one gold medal of his own -- another medal by doing so.
So while Davis and Cheek were still celebrating, Hedrick was beneath the stands griping. Not about his own sixth-place finish, because the 1,000 wasn't his best race, anyway. He was griping about people who don't do everything they can to be a part of a team and help the United States win more medals.
He wasn't approached until a week ago about even being in the team pursuit, and he didn't want to hurt his chances for gold in his best race by throwing off his carefully planned schedule. He didn't apologize for it because he felt he didn't need to. Still doesn't.
But when he should have been enjoying his Olympic moment, Davis had to explain how he was not somehow un-American.
"A lot of people might think I'm unpatriotic or not a team player," he said. "But if the shoe was on the other foot, would he have skated the team pursuit if the team pursuit was a day before the 5,000? We will never know."
Davis was never going to win a medal for being best teammate, even before he came to Turin. He and his mother have long had disputes with U.S. Speedskating, down to refusing to allow his biography to be displayed on the group's Web site. Once in Turin, he stayed to himself, avoiding both the media and the rest of his team.
There was even talk he might blow off the official press conference if he won. Clearly, this is a guy who worries only about himself.
Athletes, though, come with different needs, different motivations and vastly different personalities.
Davis couldn't top that, but he did have his gold. And he had some support from outside his team.
"What the U.S. thinks about Shani Davis doesn't matter," said bronze medalist Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands. "He got the Olympic gold medal, so he's right. He made the right decision."
Hard to argue with that.
Unless you're Chad Hedrick, that is.
We don't know what made him so hostile to the Speedskating association or how many roadblocks were tossed in his way. When he showed up to skate, how much crap did he have to deal with.
This reminds me of French ice skater Surya Bonaly. Often booed, no matter how good she was on the ice, she never seemed to finish first.
How bad can it be? Debi Thomas, the first black ice skater to reach the Olympics simply cracked under the pressure and didn't win the expected gold.
He could just be a jerk, or he could have built a barrier to avoid dealing with a sea of shit. I can't say which is which at this point.
posted by Steve @ 12:03:00 AM