More surprising -- and every bit as intriguing -- was the identity of the guy next to him on the podium:
Hedrick, who won the bronze, is as different from Davis as Chicago is from Texas. At the 2006 Winter Games they sniped publicly, ruining what should have been a sustained celebration of the five medals won between them.
Time may not have entirely repaired their relationship. According to
But when they jointly hoisted an American flag at the Richmond Olympic Oval last night, the moment didn't look at all manufactured. As Davis said, "Chad grabbed a flag and said, 'Let's do it.'" And they did it.
Afterward Hedrick called their differences "old news." This time, he said, "Nobody's wondering who wants to play with who."
Hedrick has followed a winding road since Turin. He didn't skate for eight months after returning to the U.S., but he continued to uphold his reputation as the self-promoting, hard-partying "
Then his life took another turn. In 2008 he married
Less than a month ago Lynsey, back in Houston studying for her real-estate license, suffered a miscarriage while Hedrick was training in Salt Lake. "Once we found out that one in three women will have them, we realized that God wasn't picking on us," he says. "I told Lynsey we'll meet our child one day, whether here on earth or in heaven."
When he describes his previous self, Hedrick can be so harsh that he sounds like Davis circa 2006. Looking back, he says, he regrets how he treated others. "Let's just say my life has gone through some transformations in the last 18 months. It's hard to believe, with a gold medal around your neck, that you're in a dark spot in your life. Now, if I win the gold or finish 24th, I know my wife is gonna love me just as much, my daughter is gonna love me just as much, and I'm gonna be in Houston at the beginning of March, living my life."
Hedrick has now medaled at four different distances, something even Davis can't claim. And his performance last night injects a little more drama into Saturday's 1,500 meters. Hedrick is the only man to beat Davis at that distance this season, and cited his ability to medal in the shorter 1,000 last night -- "in a race I don't wake up every morning thinking about winning" -- as further feeding his confidence.
Hedrick calls the 1,500 "the race that got away" from both him and Davis in Turin, where Italy's
"[Shani and I] drive each other, just make each other better," Hedrick said after claiming the bronze last night. "At the end of the day, what more could Americans ask for?"
The last time the two shared a press conference dais at an Olympics, they left by separate doors. This time they went off into the Richmond night, if not exactly arm and arm, at least through the same portal.