Stumble proves costly to Fredricks

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Associated Press
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
— Janesville’s Tucker Fredricks was the United States’ best hope for a medal in men’s 500-meter speedskating on Monday at the Winter Olympics.

But Tucker stumbled in the first race coming off the first turn, lost momentum making sure he didn’t fall and was out of it before he even got to the second heat. He finished 15th in that race with a time of 35.218 seconds, ninth in the medal race at 35.138 and was 12th overall at 1:10.35.

“It’s tough. I got four more years—oh, God, it’s going to be a long time—but you’ve got to suck it up,” said Fredricks, a 500 specialist who has no other real shot at a medal. “I’ll be back. I got nothing else to do.”

The top prize went to Mo Tae-bum of South Korea.

Representing a country that is best known for its success in short track, Mo captured a surprising gold medal in the event, shaking off a delay of more than an hour caused by mechanical problems with the ice-resurfacing machines.

Mo put up the second-best time of the opening race, then blazed around the track in 34.90 seconds to snatch the gold with a total time of 1 minute, 9.82 seconds. Japan took the next two spots—Keiichiro Nagashima claiming silver (1:09.98) and Joji Kato the bronze (1:10.01).

Mo became the first South Korean to win gold at the Winter Games in a sport other than short track, and he wasn’t even considered the top contender from his country. His specialties are the 1,000 and 1,500.

And get this: He won the biggest race of his life on his 21st birthday.

“I wanted to give the best birthday gift—a gold medal to Koreans,” Mo said through a translator.

Lee Kang-seok came in ranked first in the world, just ahead of countryman Lee Kyou-hyuk. But Lee Kang-seok was edged out for a medal, finishing fourth in (1:10.041) while Lee Kyou-hyuk was far back in 15th.

“I was a little bit disappointed that the other two were favorites,” Mo said. “But that gave me an opportunity to do even better and make me more eager to do the race.”

Mika Poutala had the lead after the first round, but a couple of stumbles in the second heat cost him a shot at becoming the first Finnish male to capture speedskating gold since 1928. He had just the 11th-best time of the second race, a total time of 1:10.044 leaving him in fifth.

There was some question about whether this event would even finish on time.

After the first 10 pairs skated the opening race, there was a long delay while officials tried to repair the ice-resurfacing machines. Officials discussed whether to postpone the rest of the competition to a later date, but one of the machines was fixed in time to finish.

Clearly, the South Koreans didn’t seem to mind the ice conditions. They also got an unexpected silver in the men’s 5,000 from Lee Seung-hoon.

Through three events, the Americans are still looking for their first medal at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Shani Davis didn’t even hang around for the second race. He ranked 18th (35.45) after the opening round and dropped out to focus on Wednesday’s 1,000, in which he’s the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder. He mainly uses the 500 to get in speed work for his best events, the 1,000 and 1,500.

There was no doubt about the crowd favorite. Canada’s Jeremy Wotherspoon, the world-record holder, hoped to make up for an Olympic career filled with spills and disappointment since he won his only medal, a silver at Nagano 12 long years ago.

Wotherspoon was in the hunt after the first race, holding down fifth place at 35.09. But a slight bobble in the second heat ended his hopes; the 33-year-old faded to ninth and sat alone on a bench in the middle of the oval afterward, knowing he’d lost his last shot at Olympic gold.

MEN’S 500

Final Ranking

1. Mo Tae-Bum, South Korea, (2, 34.923; 2, 34.906) 1:09.82.

2. Keiichiro Nagashima, Japan, (6, 35.108; 1, 34.876) 1:09.98.

3. Joji Kato, Japan, (3, 34.937; 5, 35.076) 1:10.01.

4. Lee Kang-Seok, South Korea, (4, 35.053; 3, 34.988) 1:10.04.

5. Mika Poutala, Finland, (1, 34.863; 11, 35.181) 1:10.04.

6. Jan Smeekens, Netherlands, (12, 35.160; 4, 35.051) 1:10.21.

7. Yu Fengtong, China, (7, 35.116; 7, 35.120) 1:10.23.

8. Jamie Gregg, Canada, (9, 35.142; 8, 35.126) 1:10.26.

9. Jeremy Wotherspoon, Canada, (5, 35.094; 12, 35.188) 1:10.28.

10. Zhang Zhongqi, China, (14, 35.175; 6, 35.113) 1:10.29.

11. Ronald Mulder, Netherlands, (11, 35.155; 10, 35.146) 1:10.30.

12. Tucker Fredricks, Janesville (15, 35.218; 9, 35.138) 1:10.35.

13. Yuya Oikawa, Japan, (13, 35.174; 14, 35.254) 1:10.42.

14. Dmitry Lobkov, Russia, (8, 35.133; 15, 35.335) 1:10.46.

15. Lee Kyou-Hyuk, South Korea, (10, 35.145; 16, 35.344) 1:10.48.

Other U.S. Finishers

26. Nick Pearson, Vernon, Wis., (25, 35.834; 28, 36.094) 1:11.92.

37. Mitchell Whitmore, Waukesha, Wis., (39, 36.734; 34, 36.314) 1:13.04.

NR. Shani Davis, Chicago (18, 35.454; DNS).

Last updated: 12:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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