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Squabbling Americans Squander Olympic Gold
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US speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis have revealed the full enmity of their bitter feud, a rivalry that helped cost them the Olympic 1,500m gold.

Italy's Enrico Fabris won in 1 min, 45.97sec Tuesday, beating 1,000m Olympic champion Davis by .16 of a second with 1,500m world record-holder Hedrick third in 1:46.22.

"Shani and I wanted to prove who was the best among each other and somebody else slid in there and got it from us," Hedrick said.

"We were too worried about each other."

Davis played down the man-to-man duel, saying: "This isn't a heavyweight title fight."

Hedrick arrived seeking a record-tying five gold medals and won the 5,000m but saw the US team pursuit line-up weakened when Davis pulled out to rest for the 1,000m.

Hedrick's dream ended with a pursuit loss. Davis won 1,000m gold.

A tense post-race news conference where the US rivals traded put-downs ended with Davis revealing the depth of his anger.

"It would have been nice if after the 1,000m Chad would have hugged me and shook my hand and congratulated me after I had hugged him and congratulated him after he won the 5,000," Davis said.

"Wouldn't even shake my hand. Typical Chad," Davis, the first black man to win an individual Winter Olympic title, muttered as he departed.

Hedrick fired back.

"I felt betrayed. Not only did he not participate but he didn't even discuss it with me," Hedrick said. "I felt we blew a real chance for a gold medal."

Outspoken Texan Hedrick, 28, and mild-mannered inner-city Chicagoan Davis, 23, agreed on nothing.

"I think it's great for the sport pitting Shani against me," Hedrick said. "A lot of people around the world want to see the top two competitors battle. It's up to us to do that without taking it personally.

"There's nothing to kiss and make up about. We're competitors. If we don't feel that way we're never going to win."

Davis spoke of wanting to evade the Olympic spotlight to achieve better times and jabbed at Hedrick, who switched to ice from in-line skating in 2003.

"I love the sport despite the people who are only short-timers in the hotel of speedskating," Davis said.

"We're not Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. We're here to do our job. It's not like we're going to go fight each other and roll around in the snow. We're adults. People need to understand. We're not perfect."

Davis took a swipe at the media for writing spite over sport.

"It's exciting enough in Europe and they don't highlight everybody's belch and fart," he said.

"When you try to put things in a negative turn, people giving attention to that when they wouldn't otherwise, I don't like that at all. People shouldn't battle at all."

Hedrick said people cannot battle enough.

"Without the competition between us we wouldn't be the skaters we are," said Hedrick. "He has a different approach, some different opinions. We bring out the best in each other."

Davis spoke of the honour of simply winning an Olympic medal when many leave empty handed.

Hedrick's attitude was gold or nothing, saying: "Anything less than a win - second, fourth, 10th, 80th - it's all the same to me."

Hedrick spoke of retirement, saying: "I plan to do some other things and turn the page. I want to do lots of new things, even some acting in Hollywood."

Davis noted that. "I'm not a phoney. There's no way I'd be a 'Hollywood' person."

When it came to the race, they disagreed on how they might have fared had they raced against one another to topple Fabris.

"I'm really glad we weren't in the same pair," Hedrick said. "We would have been trying to kill each other out there."

(China Daily February 23, 2006)

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