Reporting from Richmond, Canada — The details or fragility of the peace between Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick might be beside the point now. At least it isn't naked war, no more epithets spit across news conference tables, no visceral drama at a theater of the disturbed.
Davis can step onto a podium, gold medal slung around his neck, and Hedrick can extend a hand, as he did in the medal ceremony Thursday after the 1,000 meters. And Davis can grasp it and put his other hand on top of Hedrick's. It's no small distance to reach across for speedskaters -- competitors -- so astoundingly different.
"I think the common ground would be that we're both at the top of our game, and we both want to win," Davis said.
It makes Saturday fascinating, a chase four years in the making. There was no doubt that either Davis or Hedrick would emerge as the Olympic champion in the 1,500 four years ago in Turin, Italy. And then neither did. It was, in Hedrick's words, "the one that sort of got away from us."
Whether their interpersonal frost contributed to that probably is unverifiable. But the 1,500, which is to be held Saturday at the Richmond Olympic Oval, represents the chance for both to atone, the alleged good vibes interrupted for one last duel.
"This race has been on the calendar for a while, you guys know that," Hedrick said.
Actually, for Hedrick, it's been on the front door. In a period of thorough personal overhaul between 2006 and now, Hedrick's wife, Lynsey, posted a list of her husband's goals above the doorknob, a gentle reminder seen by Hedrick every time he left the house.
She included snapshots of the locker room and his bedroom from the 2006 Winter Games. And at the top of the list was Hedrick's future, clearly defined: Win the 1,500-meter gold medal in 2010.
"Man, it's been a long road," said Hedrick, who got teary-eyed at the thought Friday. "This has been a struggle for me, and just getting back to this point has been a victory itself. Now I've got a chance to finish it off strong.
"This is my last individual race as a professional athlete. It could be a special moment."
But, mindful of one particular roadblock to that, Hedrick directed a knowing nod toward Davis, who won silver in the 1,500 in Turin, is the world-record holder in the event and remains the favorite.
Hours after his gold-medal performance in the 1,000, Davis mulled the 1,500 and quipped that he got "tired just thinking about it." But setting right what went awry in Turin would make more history, as he would become the second U.S. speedskater to win at least three gold medals.
"Anyone that's competing in the 1,500-meter race I consider a threat," Davis said. "It's my obligation to be able to keep a level head and stay humble and make sure I approach the race like I'm an underdog and do the best I can from that point of view."
By rule, Hedrick and Davis cannot skate in the same pairing. But one can skate right after the other, with a time to beat on the board.
"That would be sort of the storybook ending, wouldn't it?" Hedrick said.
Theirs is a long, twisting story, indeed, but it seems bound for an exhilarating last chapter.