Tuesday November 10th, 2009

U.S. speed skater Shani Davis' season got off to a blistering start in Berlin last weekend. Davis brought home his first two long-track gold medals of the season, winning the 1,000 meters on Friday in 1:08.53, a half-second faster than the previous track record.

Davis' chief rival at the last Olympics, teammate Chad Hedrick, finished fifth. The news wasn't so good for Trevor Marsicano, who placed 15th after battling illness all week. Marsicano is widely considered to be among Davis' toughest competitors at the Olympics.

On Saturday, Davis also won the 1,500 meters, finishing in 1:44.47 and beating second-place finisher Havard Bokko from the Netherlands by more than a full second. Davis was paired with Hedrick, who kept pace with him through 1,000 meters but faded to 10th place. Tucker Fredericks won the second of two 500-meter races in 35.06. Marsicano struggled into 17th place. The results reconfirmed Davis as the favorite to win both the 1,000 and 1,500, races in which he set world records in Utah last season.

Given his amazing range -- from 500 meters to 10,000 -- Davis now has to decide which races to skate at the Vancouver Games, maximizing his potential medal haul without compromising one of the events. Davis could win a medal in any of his five individual races and has also indicated he's consider skating the team pursuit, a race he sat out at the last Olympics.

Katherine Reutter has been the emerging name of the World Cup season for the U.S. short-track team. She won the 1,500 meters at the world cup in Montreal this past weekend, dashing past world cup leader Lee Eun-byul of Korea. It was her second title of the shortened season. She also reached the final of the 1,000, taking fourth behind three Chinese skaters, and paced the U.S. relay team to a silver, behind China. The World Cup season will continue this weekend in Marquette, Mich., before going on hiatus until after the Olympics.

• The Canadian women's hockey team established itself as an early favorite this weekend to win the gold medal by winning the Four Nations Cup in Tikkurila, Finland, on Saturday. Jocelyne Lamoreux scored the first goal of the game for the U.S. team, but five Canadians scored thereafter. The loss marked a rare defeat for Team USA, which had won a series of international tournaments since taking the Four Nations Cup in '07. The U.S. won world titles in '08 and '09 and also captured the Canada Cup earlier this year.

On Friday, the U.S. team defeated Canada 3-2 in preliminary-round play as Hilary Knight notched a goal and an assist and Meghan Duggan scored the winner with 14 seconds left in the second period.

The two games may also have clarified the battles for the No. 1 goaltending positions on both teams. For the U.S., Jessie Vetter stopped 20 of 22 shots in Friday's win; Molly Schaus let in five goals on 29 shots in the final. For Canada, Charline Labonte let in three on just 18 shots; Shannon Szabados turned back 21 of 22 in the championship game. Szabados spent five years playing with Junior A boys in the AJHL.

• The comeback of figure skater Sasha Cohen was thrown into further doubt when she withdrew from Skate America, which is scheduled for Lake Placid, N.Y., next weekend. The Olympic silver medalist in Turin last competed at the '06 World Championships in Calgary, where she won a bronze medal.

Cohen, 25, was due to return to competition last month at the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris, but withdrew because of tendinitis in her right calf. She has been training in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., under the watchful eye of Rafael Arutunian, a former coach of five-time world champ Michelle Kwan. Cohen has finished in the top four at worlds and Olympics on seven occasions, but never won a gold medal.

Meanwhile, the dance team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White continued to roll, winning the NHK Trophy in Japan on Sunday. Johnny Weir won a silver in the men's event, while Ashley Wagner and the pair of Rena Inoue and John Baldwin won bronze medals.

• The USFSA announced that San Jose, Calif., would by the host city for the U.S. Championships in January 2012. The 2011 championships are slated for Greensboro, N.C. The 2010 championships in Spokane, Wash., hold additional significance, as the Olympic team will be named soon after the final competition.

• It may be no more than a consolation prize, but Toronto won the rights to host the 2015 Pan-Am Games this week. The Canadian city beat out bids from Lima, Peru, and Bogotá, Colombia. Toronto had previously bid for the rights to host the Summer Olympics in '96 and '08 and was widely thought to have a nearly flawless technical bid the second time around. Unfortunately for the bid committee, that vote, held in '01 in Moscow, was more of a referendum on whether China, the world's largest country, was ready to open itself up and host an Olympics. Any city in a race against Beijing that year had very little chance.

• Look for the oil-rich United Arab Emirates to make a strong bid to land the 2020 Olympics. UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said he was forming a committee to build a bid that would make Dubai the first city in the Middle East to land the Olympics. Doha, Qatar, bid unsuccessfully for the 2016 Games that were recently awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

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