VANCOUVER (BP)–A strong final lap allowed U.S. speedskater Chad Hedrick to overcome a slow start and win the bronze medal in the men’s 1000 meters Wednesday at the Winter Olympics.
U.S. teammate Shani Davis won the gold medal with a time of 1:08.94. Hedrick was .38 seconds behind Davis, with a time of 1:09.32. Davis won gold in the 1000 meters in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, and is the world record holder in the event.
Hedrick and Davis accounted for two of six medals won by U.S. athletes on Feb. 17 — America’s highest one-day total for the Winter Olympics.
“My consistency on the laps really brought me into the race where I was able to come out and get a medal,” Hedrick said. “I left it all out there on the ice. I couldn’t be more happy with myself.”
He credited Davis with skating a strong race. “He hasn’t lost a 1000 meters all year,” Hedrick said about Davis. “This guy’s just untouchable in the 1000.”
Davis and Hedrick have mended their relationship, which was strained during the 2006 Olympics in a highly publicized squabble when Hedrick criticized Davis for not participating in the team pursuit event. Davis declined to race with the team to focus on his individual events.
But a lot has changed for Hedrick and his approach to the sport since 2006. Hedrick became a Christian a few months ago and said his conversion has helped him develop a new outlook on life.
Also competing in the 1000 meters was Finland’s Mika Poutala, who finished eighth. Poutala has done some preaching and says he may enter the ministry when his speedskating career is over. He was pleased with his performance in the race.
“I had a very good start and a good first lap,” Poutala said. “I tried to skate as easy as possible, but very fast. And then I just died in the last lap, because I’m a sprinter, so it’s almost every time like that.”
Before the race, Poutala had to forget about his showing in the 500 meter race Feb. 15, which he led after the first heat but fell to fifth overall after finishing 12th in the second heat.
“In the morning I was still a little bit disappointed about the 500 meter,” Poutala said. “But then when I came here I started to concentrate on this 1,000 meter. When I was on the finish line and they announced my name, then I was totally enjoying speedskating again, because I had a very bad few days. I was so disappointed. I’ve never been that disappointed about sport.”
Tim Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., is covering the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver for Baptist Press.