The (South) Koreans seem bent on messing up my predictions. Lee Sang Hwa skated brilliantly to hold off a second-race charge from Jenny Wolf who asserted her intentions in the first hundred meters of the second race by opening in a blistering 10.14 seconds (on her world record race on faster ice, she opened in 10.19) and Wolf and Lee who were both in the last pair were the only two to go under 38 seconds, with Wolf winning the second race, but not by a wide enough margin to take back the lead. Beixing Wang skated a sub-par first race, and even though she skated a very fast second race, bettering everyone’s time from the first, Wolf and Lee stepped up and preserved the order from the earlier session.
I would ordinarily say that the men’s 1000m is almost certainly Shani Davis’ but given the events of the past days, I’m not so sure anymore. Davis is world record holder and is one of only two people to skate 1000m in under 1:08, and he’s done it three times – twice this season. He also hasn’t lost a 1000m race since last season, in Kolomna. Popular rumor has it that he had been wearing the same pair of boots for the past eight years and was finally convinced to get a new pair made, which he wore for the last world cups of the season, then broke two world records.
As for the rest of the podium, it’s anyone’s guess. 500m gold medalist Mo Tae Bum is in with a chance, as is fellow Koreans Lee Kyou Hyuk and Joon Mun. Dutchmen Simon Kuipers, Mark Tuitert, and Stefan Groothuis skated very strong 1000m races at dutch Olympic trials. Canada’s Denny Morrison is in with a good chance being a former world record holder in the 1500m, as is the strong Finn Mika Poutala, who, judging by the 500m, is feeling the ice quite well. Seemingly outside chances according to the rankings are Keiichiro Nagashima and Jeremy Wotherspoon, but recent form indicates that these two are also top contenders for medals.
Jeremy will have the support of the hometown crowd, as well as the absence of the pressure that the nation placed on his shoulders that was present in the 500m. Keeping in mind the story of Dan Jansen (look it up) and the fact that Jer has the (unofficial) record for the fastest lap ever skated in competition (24.3 seconds) and, not only that, he equaled it during the Canada Cup #1 earlier this year.
Still… I’m sticking with Shani for the gold. A Korean for the silver (just covering myself here), and Jer might just sneak in with the bronze. But who knows, this is the Olympics, and anything can happen.
Tip: tickets are difficult but not impossible to get. Two hours before the scheduled start time for any given event, the ticket booth at the venue opens and a few extra tickets (reserved for “olympic family”) are released. Get there early so that you are ahead of (most of) the ticket scalpers. If you are forced to buy a ticket from a scalper, and this may sound obvious, DO NOT under any circumstances accept their first offer. Pretend that you are very poor, and have a personal reason to need a ticket, such as a close friend competing (or you can be like me, and not need to pretend… although I also didn’t need the services of a scalper either). It helps to know the original price of the tickets beforehand (they can be found on the website vancouver2010.com, under “tickets”), with a little persuasion and creativity, you can usually negotiate the price to within $20-$30 of the original price, which is actually quite reasonable considering the tickets are can sometimes be $185.