U.S. continues medal run on Day Two at World CupDavis, Richardson make two podiums apiece Saturday in Salt Lake City
With five competitions remaining in the long track World Cup, the U.S. speed skating team is already enjoying one of the best performances in its history.
"Sixteen medals in two world cups; it's got to be one of our best starts to a season -- ever," head coach Ryan Shimabukuro said after another record-setting day at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah. "I'm pretty pumped, and there is still one more day to go."
While the Americans set two new national records -- in men's team pursuit (3:37.22) and Brittany Bowe's 1,500 (1:52.45) -- Korea and the Netherlands both set new world records Saturday.
"First of all, I think we can put to rest who has the fastest ice on earth -- us or Calgary," Shimabukuro said with a smile. "I think we demonstrated here that we have the fastest ice on the planet. Number two, guys are motivated. In Olympic years, you always see a bump up in the performances. … But it's a balancing act because you can only maintain that top level for so long. You have to choose when you're good."
While defending Olympic gold medalist Sang-Hwa Lee broke the world record mark she set Friday in the 500, the men's pursuit team from the Netherlands shattered the world record it set in Calgary last weekend with a gold medal-winning time of 3:35.60. The Dutch's Calgary time was 3:37.17.
For the U.S. team, two-time Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis led the way with a gold in the 1,000 and a silver in the men's team pursuit.
Davis hadn't skated the team pursuit since he helped the U.S. to a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships. He said the fact that it's scheduled last -- after all his individual races are over -- made it a possibility this Olympic season.
"It's really not easy," he said of having to skate the team pursuit after doing the 1,000. "It's a good starting point for us. I think we did well, and we'll hash out everything; maybe some of those small mistakes we made, we can fix. We're motivated. … At least now we know where we stand, and I think we stand in a good place."
The U.S. is second in the world in the team pursuit, a ranking that is based on World Cup points. It has one more opportunity to earn World Cup points in the event at the World Cup in Berlin.
The format is different during the Olympics, with teams racing head to head according to rankings rather than against the clock.
"I thought they did a great job," Shimabukuro said. "We had two guys who'd just raced the 1,000, and they went one and three in that race. … I was really proud with that effort. The fact that they [earned] an American record just shows the kind of effort they put into it."
Having Davis in the mix is a luxury for the team that already boasts some great skaters.
"I think, hands down, we're the most talented team, and it's just a matter of time until we show that," Davis said. "We're all pulling for each other, nothing but good vibes and positivity. We're going to continue to grow and get stronger and move forward."
Davis said he was "happy" with his gold medal in the 1,000 meters.
"My opener wasn't the greatest, but my first lap was pretty strong, and my last lap was even stronger," the 31-year-old Chicago native said. "That's just veteran tactics there. I work with what I'm given."
Davis earned the win with a time of 1:06.02, while Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands won silver with a personal record of 1:07.02. Davis and Nuis skated in the final pair of the 1,000, and Nuis was part of the world record in the team pursuit.
American Brian Hansen, who also skated in the team pursuit, finished with bronze in the 1,000 after setting a new personal best of 1:07.03.
"I wasn't really sure what to expect," said Hansen, who is considering skipping the final two World Cups in order to train for the Olympic trials at the end of December. "Hopefully, I can improve on it just a little, but I can't complain about that race at all."
It was also Hansen's second podium in two races, as he won silver in Friday's 1,500 meters, the race in which Davis won gold.
"I know I don't have a lot of my speed yet, but doing a 24.6 lap is really good considering my condition," Davis said. "And I just look to improve from this race."
The fact that Davis isn't even hitting his top speeds yet makes those gold medals even more impressive, Shimabukuro said.
"We don't need to be setting the world on fire because the Olympic season is quite different," he said. "Our fall World Cup season is pretty tough. I'm really pleased with where he's at. He's not winning on top speed; he's winning on endurance."
That's a much different scenario than in the months leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Games.
"Four years ago, he had a lot of top speed in the beginning (of the season), and by the time we got to the Games, he kind of fizzled out a little bit," Shimabukuro said. "So I think we're on the right track."
The victory was sweeter for Davis, as it came in front of his family and friends.
"It's always such a great feeling to be able to compete against the world at your best, and do your best, on home soil," he said.
The World Cup being held on the ice where most of the U.S. team athletes train is the reason Shimabukuro asked Bowe and Heather Richardson to skate the 1,500, in addition to the four other races in which they compete.
It worked out well when the former inline skaters finished second and third, respectively, for the first time in their careers.
"It felt great," Bowe, a Florida native, said of her 1:52.45 time. "I couldn't be happier on the podium with my teammate, as well. That's just icing on the cake."
Ireen Wüst won the ladies 1,500-meter race with a new national record for the Netherlands of 1:52.08. Richardson, the reigning World Sprint champion, also earned her first podium with a personal record of 1:52.55.
Lee continued her dominance in the 500, breaking the world record she set yesterday with a blistering 36.36 seconds.
It's the third time in eight days that Lee has broken the world record. She set a new mark in Calgary and then broke that record Friday in Kearns with a 36.57. The 24-year-old from Seoul has won every 500 race of the World Cup season.
Richardson set a new national record with a 36.90 while earning a silver medal in the event. Like Lee, she broke the U.S. record she set Friday (37.97).
"That was so awesome," she said. "Brittany went out and nailed it. The ice was extremely fast today, and I think everyone did awesome. … I'm extremely happy; it was my first 1,500-meter medal, so I'm pumped with that."
Russia's Olga Fatkulina earned bronze with a new national record of 37.13 seconds.
Asked why the U.S. skaters were having such a great showing, Richardson smiled and shrugged.
"I don't know," she said. "I guess it's just a good weekend for us here on home ice, and we were just pumped. … It was just really fun, and we look forward to that 1,000-meter tomorrow."