SOCHI, Russia — After a new, Under Armour-designed skin suit came under heavy scrutiny, American skaters switched back to suits worn during the recent World Cup season and picked up right where they left off, with no skater finishing higher than seventh and three outside the top 10 in the men’s 1,500 meters.
Zbigniew Brodka of Poland took gold with a time of 1:45.006, narrowly edging Netherlands’ Koen Verweij, who finished in 1:45.009. At first tied – the in-arena scoreboard only calculates to the hundredths of a second – Brodka was named the winner after a brief review.
Canada’s Denny Morrison (1:45.22) finished in bronze, claiming his second medal of the Sochi Games.
For Brodka, the medal marked Poland’s first speed skating gold. Verweij’s silver gives Netherlands 13 medals through seven events, tied for the most skating medals in a single Games.
For Shani Davis, the performance comes two days after an inexplicable eighth-place finish in the men’s 1,000, an event he had owned since taking gold in the 2006 Torino Games. A win in the 1,000 would have made him the first male skater to claim gold in the same event in three consecutive Olympic Games.
After missing out on one Olympic milestone, a medal-less finish in the 1,500 prevents Davis from matching another. With any medal in the event, Davis would have tied Eric Heiden for the most by an American male with five.
“I have the talent,” Davis said. “I’ve done the work. I’ve made the sacrifices. I just couldn’t quite get what I needed to get out of those things.”
Maybe it’s not the suits.
Davis finished with a time of 1:45.98, good for 11th among 40 skaters – a time nearly four seconds behind Brodka’s gold-medal finish and nearly five seconds off Davis’s 1,500-meters world record. His time was bested by Hansen (1:45.59), who finished seventh, but even that finish was far off Hansen’s expectations entering the Games.
With seven events complete – and 21 potential medals awarded – the U.S. team is facing a shutout. America won a combined 19 medals in the last three Olympic Games, making this Sochi swoon a head-scratching development that led to questions about the new suits, which some perceived to have design flaws.
“There are some hard feelings right now,” coach Ryan Shimabukuro said. “To be in the situation we’re in right now, it’s devastating. But you know, skaters all still go to the line chin up, ready to give it their best effort every time. I think they’re champions for doing that.”