by Ralph Routon
With the postponement of the Olympic men's downhill ski race at the 2010 Winter Games, the focus now switches to the speedskating oval in suburban Richmond, where that sport's long-track events begin this afternoon with the men's 5,000 meters.
It also could mean a medal for Shani Davis, the top U.S. skater, who has the fortune of skating in the same pairing with favorite Sven Kramer of the Netherlands. With Kramer to chase instead of just the clock and a lesser opponent, Davis would appear to have a better chance at making the podium.
Davis is considered a good shot for gold at the shorter 1,500 and 1,000 meters, while Kramer has been dominant at the longer events covering 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
Chad Hedrick, who gave the United States a gold medal in the 5,000 four years ago at Torino, is back to defend his title and will skate in the final pairing. Based on recent results, however, Hedrick is not thought to be a serious threat this time.