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Ice problems force delay in men's speedskating

WINTER OLYMPICS

Resurfacing problems prompt U.S. speedskater Shani Davis to skip his second turn in 500 meters.

February 16, 2010|By Brian Hamilton

Reporting from Richmond, Canada — It was another eye-rolling, ironic mishap, a 66-minute competition delay because Canada couldn't properly make ice. No snow in the mountains was one thing, given the need for nature's cooperation, but problems freezing water in the Great White North?

Eh tu, Richmond Olympic Oval?

So it went for the men's 500-meter race in long-track speedskating Monday, making it the second straight day of ice issues at the track. As for medal-acquisition issues, those are going to last for Shani Davis at least until Wednesday.

Davis, satisfied with his first run Monday night and worried about injuries after the long delays, skipped his second 500-meter race of the evening.

Tucker Fredricks, the top U.S. sprinter, literally stumbled in his first 500-meter run of the night in an event that forgives not even the smallest gaffe.

Ranked fourth in the 500-meter World Cup standings coming in and standing a realistic chance to medal, Fredricks finished 12th, 0.53 of a second behind gold medal winner Mo Tae-Bum of South Korea.

Davis, meanwhile, was not among the favorites, the 500-meter race just another tuneup for his 1,000- and 1,500-meter specialties -- and the delay shortened that tuneup by a race.

The Chicago native was 18th through the first set of races with a time of 35.45. It was in the second 500-meter race at the 2009 World Single Distance Championships that Davis hurt his groin.

"Things happen for a reason," Davis told reporters between races, according to his website.

"[The delay] made it easier to decide to skip the second race, start resting and get my mind focused on [the 1,000]. I did a fast one-lap time and I know what I have to work on."

But technical difficulties once again underscored an event at these Games. On Sunday, during resurfacing for the women's 3,000-meter race, an ice resurfacer spit water onto the ice, requiring a shovel and squeegee cleanup.

On Monday, one of the machines appeared simply to break down during the first round of ice resurfacing, causing the holdup.

Gerhard Zimmermann, technical director and vice president for the International Skating Union, said he was assured three functional machines -- including one brought in from Calgary -- would be on hand Tuesday for the women's 500-meter races.

"We had all options, but this was the favorable option we took, that we continued today and finished the 500-meter event," Zimmermann said during the break between races.

"Only in the worst case that the ice wouldn't be OK, the machines shut down a third time, then we would have to stop."

The U.S.'s Nick Pearson finished with a total time of 71.92, and Mitchell Whitmore finished at 73.04.

bchamilton@tribune.com

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