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Katherine Reutter, Shani Davis strike gold for U.S. speedskating

March 11, 2011 |  4:56 pm

Here's the long and short of it:

This was a golden day for the biggest current U.S. star in each of speedskating's two disciplines, long and short track.

For Shani Davis, it was more of the same.  The 1,000-meter gold in the World Single Distances Championships at Inzell, Germany, was the third of Davis' career at that distance and sixth overall in the long track meet. 

Shani1000 For Katherine Reutter, it was a first.  And the 1,500-meter gold she won in Sheffield, England, also was the first by a U.S. woman at the World Short Track Championships since Bonnie Blair a quarter century ago. 

That both Reutter and Blair are from Champaign, Ill., has inevitably led to comparisons, and Reutter does not shy from being likened to one of her sport's legendary athletes, even if Blair is better known for her long track exploits.

"It's kind of funny how people are comparing me to Bonnie -- not that it isn't deserved pretty much,'' Reutter said via telephone from England.

Davis, a Chicagoan, keeps adding to his deserved status as one of the legendary athletes in the sport.

He now has won two Olympic gold medals and the three single distance titles in the 1,000.  Friday, despite a big slip on one turn, he clocked 1 minute 8.45 seconds to beat Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands by .22.

"It was a great step in the right direction from the day before,'' Davis said in a statement from U.S. Speedskating.

Thursday, Davis had missed a fourth title at 1,500 by just four-hundredths of a second. 

"After an objective evaluation last night on the 1,500, Shani was able to execute some of the things he had been missing in his skating,'' U.S. Coach Ryan Shimabukuro said.  "You really got to see Shani skating like himself today.''

Reutter wound up skating the 1,500 exactly the opposite of how she planned.

Determined to stay in the top three for the whole race, Reutter saw all five of her competitors pass with five laps left.  Then she figured on waiting until the final two laps to make a move but took off with four to go when she sensed the rest of the field relaxing.

"I just went as hard as I could on the outside,'' she said.

Reutter2 It was hard enough for Reutter to take a lead she never relinquished and beat South Korea's Park Seung-Hi, the reigning champion, by .240 seconds.

Reutter had an odd and old feeling after crossing the line.

"It was just like my (silver medal) at the Olympics,'' she said.  "I crossed the line and thought, 'OK, that was a good race.'

"Then I saw all my coaches flipping out.  I was so into the race I didn't realize it was the final.''

There wasn't all glory for Reutter on Friday.  She fell while the U.S. team was second in the 3,000-meter relay semifinals.  The mishap left them dead last in a four-team race where the top two advanced.

"I feel bad because I had a lot of other people counting on me,'' she said, "but I can't be upset because I don't think I could have done anything better.''

The one thing Reutter certainly did well was relax her body before sliding into the protective pads.  That prevented her from further aggravating back problems caused by other recent falls.

"I've been falling a lot lately, and it's gotten to the point where my coaches and I are pretty sick of it,'' she said.

Reutter goes on to the 500 meters Saturday, where her interest is to do well enough to boost her chances at the overall title, decided by results of the 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000.  Park also is the reigning overall champion. 

Back in 1986, Bonnie Blair won the overall title.

Photos: (Top) Shani Davis gives a thumbs-up after the medal ceremony for the 1,000 meters at the World Single Distances Championship. Credit: Michaela Rehle / Reuters. (Bottom) Katherine Reutter takes a victory lap after her win in the 1,500 at the World Short Track Championships. Credit: Matt Dunham/ Associated Press.

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