16 November 2013 – Salt Lake City, USA
Shani Davis is looking golden on the Road to Sochi 2014.
Speedskating’s middle-distance master captured his U.S.-best 55th and 56th career individual World Cup victories at the rarefied Salt Lake City Olympic Oval, winning both of his specialty distances at a single World Cup event for the 10th time in a remarkable career.
At 1000m Shani extended his all-time leading World Cup win total by taking Gold for the 38th time since 2005, including at the season-opening World Cup in Calgary last weekend.
Davis was the only man under 1:07, skating a tenacious 1:06.88 that marked his fourth time eclipsing the barrier at the Olympic Oval, including in 2009 when he established the current World Record of 1:06.42 ahead of the 2010 Olympic Games. The two-time Olympic 1000m Champion and three-time 1000m World Champion now owns the top three times ever skated at the distance.
From the final pairing against Kjeld Nuis of The Netherlands, Shani dug deep after a relatively slow opening 200m (16.9) to chase down Nuis – and the field – in the last 800 meters with lap times of 24.6 and 25.3.
At 1500m the two-time Olympic Silver medalist raced to his record-tying 18th 1500m World Cup win, equalling Norwegian Adne Soendral, who set the standard in the ‘Race of Kings’ between 1992-2002. Four 1500m races remain on the 2013-14 WC schedule.
Racing in the pressure-packed final pairing against last week’s 1500m winner Koen Verweij of The Netherlands, Shani opened fast, closed hard, and remained poised throughout, crossing in 1:41.98 to post history’s third-fastest 1500m time. The U.S. went 1-2 on the podium, with Brian Hansen capturing second (1:42.16) ahead of Verweij (1:42.28), who established a new Dutch National Record.
Having broken the World Record with each of his first two forays into 1:41 territory, both times in 2009 at the Olympic Oval (1:41.80 on March 6, then 1:41.04 on Dec. 11), Shani remains the only man to skate sub-1:42.
With the twin victories Shani extends his lead atop the Overall WC 1000m standings and moves past Verweij into the lead of the overall WC 1500m standings. Shani also passes Verweij in the season-long chase for the Grand World Cup (most total WC points), a title he has yet to officially win in his illustrious career.
In the 8-lap Team Pursuit competition, Shani and his U.S. teammates set a new National Record (3:37.22) but couldn’t keep pace with the World Record-setting Netherlands trio (3:35.60) of Sven Kramer, Shani’s long-distance counterpart.
Shani has lead the USA to three World Cup TP victories in his career and anchored the U.S. to its lone World Championship title in 2011.
The World Cup circuit now moves to Europe for a pair of events in Kazakhstan (Nov. 29-30) and Berlin (Dec. 6-8), the final WC races prior to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi next February.
[Photo: Martin de Jong]