It happened again Saturday, in the 1500m.
For the second Olympics in a row, the event that Davis calls the "king's race" produced an upset winner. Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands relegated Davis to the silver, while a fading Hedrick didn't even make the podium in the final individual event of his groundbreaking career.
"It's the second time in a row that Shani and I have gotten this race stolen from us," said Hedrick, an inline champion who switched from wheels to blades and has won four Olympic medals. "We go in as heavy favorites each time, and it is some special skater every time that comes in."
Four years ago, it was Italy's Enrico Fabris pulling out gold in the 1500m, while Davis and Hedrick settled for silver and bronze.
Davis was runner-up again in suburban Richmond, ending his Olympics with the same result as the 2006 Torino Games -- a gold in the 1000m, a silver in the 1500m.
He's already set his sights on tackling the sport's toughest test of stamina and speed at the 2014 Olympics in Russia.
"I am sure it is going to keep me in the sport," said the 27-year-old, the first African-American athlete to win individual gold at the Winter Games. "I have to accept it and hopefully I can get stronger from it."
Davis, the world-record holder, came around the final turn with his mouth open and arms swinging, trying desperately to make up the gap on Tuitert. He finished more than a half-second behind the winning time of 1 minute, 45.57 seconds.
"I just couldn't man up and do it," Davis said. "I wasn't strong enough for the victory."
Tuitert, who went in the third pair from the end, watched nervously from the infield as Hedrick skated next and Davis capped it off in the final group, both knowing the time they had to beat.
The soon-to-retire Hedrick got off to a surprisingly strong start, but that may have cost him his usual finishing kick. He knew he was done a few feet from the line, coasting across more than a second behind in sixth.
"It couldn't happen to a better guy. He beat me pretty good," Hedrick said. "For him to go out there and fight like he did is incredible."
Davis, who set the world record of 1:41.04 in December in the thin air of Salt Lake City, knew he wouldn't be able to go nearly that fast at the sea-level conditions of the Richmond Olympic Oval. He was only 18-hundredths behind Tuitert with two laps to go, but wasn't quite as strong at the end.
"I struggled the whole race," Davis said. "I could not build enough speed."
Tuitert held both hands to his head, as if he couldn't believe his time had stood up to Davis, then grabbed the Dutch flag for a victory lap while his fellow countrymen in the band, Kleintje Pils, belted out their national anthem, "Wilhelmus."
"He is the king of the hill," Davis said. "He won the king's race and he has the title of king now. I wish I could have had the title."
Hedrick hoped to follow up a surprising bronze in the 1000m with an even better showing in the 1,500. He believed he had an advantage at the longer distance, counting on his heart and endurance background to help him cope better than others with the sluggish ice.
It wasn't even close. Hedrick collapsed on the final lap, falling farther and farther off the pace. He knew it was over before he got to the line in 1:46.69.
Davis claimed silver at 1:46.10, while Håvard Bøkko of Norway took bronze in 1:46.13.
"It was a monster race for me," said Tuitert, who came in ranked only fifth on the World Cup circuit at this distance. "Shani has been winning everything, Chad was so good and then I produce this race.
"It all came together in this race."
Davis scratched his head, looking unsure about what happened. Still, he's become only the fourth male skater in U.S. history to earn two Olympic golds in long track speed skating, and it seems as though he'll have at least one more Olympics to add to his total.
After collecting himself, Davis seemed a little more satisfied with his performance, smiling as he coasted around the track, waving to the crowd.
"I have to accept it, but I still want to be able to win that race," Davis said. "That has been my favorite race since I was a junior, since as far along as I can remember me skating. I always wanted to win that medal."
The 33-year-old Hedrick could barely stand upright, gasping for breath and swatting at his legs as if he couldn't believe they let him down.
Hedrick does have another event, the team pursuit, giving him one last chance to join Eric Heiden as the only American men to win five medals on the big oval.
Heiden's, of course, were all gold.
"I leave the ring today. I have no shame," Hedrick said. "I fell short today, but I left it all out there."
Davis might have contended for a medal in the pursuit, but said again he has no intention of skating that event. So, his Olympics are over.
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