Olympics Notebook

Davis has some fast company

Associated Press / February 17, 2010

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Suddenly, the race is on.

All those who considered Shani Davis a lock to win the 1,000 meters at the Richmond Olympic Oval today might want to hedge their bets just a bit. There’s an up-and-comer from South Korea who’s already claimed gold in Vancouver, and he’s looking forward to giving Davis a serious challenge in his best event.

Mo Tae Bum was a surprising winner in the 500 Monday night, setting himself up quite nicely for a race that’s twice as long, the one in which Davis is the world record-holder and defending Olympic champion.

“I’m even more confident going into my other events,’’ Mo said, who gave himself quite a present for his 21st birthday.

Davis, on the other hand, might be having a few doubts after his first two events of these Olympics. He finished 12th in the 5,000 - nearly 14 seconds behind winner Sven Kramer - and didn’t even bother finishing the 500 after placing 18th in the first of two heats.

Deciding it was time to start focusing on the 1,000, Davis called in a day, leaving the spotlight to the 21-year-old South Korean who likes fast cars, fast motorcycles - and going fast himself.

“The 500 meters was not my strongest,’’ Mo said through a translator. “However, I am looking forward to the 1,000 and will try to do my best.’’

Indeed, coming into the Olympics, Mo was only ranked 14th in the 500, having failed to crack the podium in any event this season. But he’s second to Davis in the 1,000 standings.

Parting gift
What advice does Olympic pairs skating champion Zhao Hongbo have for German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, who won the bronze medal Monday night?

“Don’t wait until 37 to get gold,’’ said the 36-year-old Zhao, who’s the oldest man to win an Olympic skating gold medal since Finland’s Walter Jakobsson, who was 38 when he claimed the pairs title with wife Ludowika in 1920, when the Winter Games were held in the spring in Antwerp.

After finally winning on their fourth try, Zhao and wife Shen Xue plan to retire.

“We are too old to continue skating,’’ said Zhao, “so maybe it’s time to have a baby.’’

Bad timing
There was no question about these blunders at biathlon: an embarrassment. And that’s coming from the people who run the sport.

The biathlon pursuit features staggered starts based on finish times from the previous event. In the men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit yesterday, two athletes went off too early, including American Jeremy Teela. Earlier, three women went off late in their 10K.

“It is embarrassing,’’ said Norbert Baier, the International Biathlon Union’s technical delegate. “Why do we have this incompetence?’’

Teela left 22 seconds before he was supposed to and that amount was docked from his finishing time, dropping him from 20th to 24th. Canadian Jean Philippe Leguellec was penalized 30 seconds, sending him from fifth place to 11th.

Complicating matters were the late arrivals of many athletes in the men’s race, making for a chaotic bustle at the start gates, Baier said.

US Ski Team women’s coach Jim Tracy named his four racers for today’s downhill competition in Whistler. Lindsey Vonn, the two-time overall World Cup champion, and Julia Mancuso, a 2006 giant slalom gold medalist, were assured of making the roster. The other two are Stacey Cook, who had to be cleared after crashing in training last week, and 20-year-old Alice McKennis, the youngest member of the Alpine team. Tracy bypassed two New Englanders, Chelsea Marshall of Pittsfield, Vt., and Leanne Smith, a native of North Conway, N.H. . . . Nordic combined athlete Niyaz Nabeev of Russia and Estonian cross-country skier Kaspar Kokk passed blood tests and can resume competition after getting suspended for five days because of too-high hemoglobin levels . . . Vancouver police arrested Guillame Joseph-Marc Beaulieu, 27, of Vancouver, whom they suspect is the “ringleader’’ of a weekend protest that turned destructive . . . Through four nights, household ratings for the Vancouver Olympics are up 15 percent over the 2006 Games in Turin, the Nielsen Co. said. NBC expected an increase in ratings, since Olympics on this continent that include live events in prime time do better than overseas games.

John Powers of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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