KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Mitchell Whitmore claimed the top spot on the medal podium at the U.S. speedskating trials. The real drama was who finished fourth.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis claimed the last berth in the 500 meters Saturday, but only after Jonathan Garcia was disqualified for failing to wear timing transponders on his ankles while skating a personal-best time that would've earned him a trip to Sochi.
U.S. Speedskating officials granted Garcia a re-skate about a half-hour later, after everyone else was done. The Texan skated alone, with Davis watching from the infield, but was nearly a half-second slower than his previous time of 34.85 seconds. He glided along the backstretch with his head down, while Davis barely celebrated at all.
"It's really unfortunate," said Davis, who finished behind Whitmore, Tucker Fredricks and Brian Hansen. "I remember the special feeling I had when I went (to the Olympics) the first time. I was really pulling for Garcia to pull through and take the spot, even if it knocked me off the team. He's a friend of mine. I want the best skaters to go. If someone is clearly faster than me, I want them to go. It's just unfortunate that rule worked to his disadvantage."
Whitmore won with a combined time of 1 minute, 9.12 seconds over two races. Fredricks earned his third trip to the Olympics in 1:09.44, while Hansen was next in 1:09.85.
If Garcia's initial time in the second race had stood, he would've been fourth in 1:10.04. Instead, Davis finished fourth in 1:10.21, while Garcia's performance in the do-over (35.33) was only good enough for sixth at 1:10.52.
"I know that I was good enough to be on the team," Garcia said, noting that his first time was accurate because the transponder is merely a backup in case the main timing system fails. "That's something nobody can take away from me."
"It's awful. He skated an amazing race without his transponder," the winner said. "If it was up to me, I would have picked him because he went faster."
Davis is not considered a medal contender in the 500, but he likes to use the event as a training tool for his two best events. He has won gold in the 1,000 and silver in the 1,500 at the last two Olympics.
"I'm happy that I kind of made the team," he said, "but I'm kind of sad because (Garcia) skated the race of his life."