Tuitert upsets Davis in 1500

Unheralded Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands sprung a huge surprise with victory over world champion Shani Davis of the United States in the men's Olympic 1500 metres speed skating.

Eurosport

Tuitert, a 29-year-old who finished ninth over the distance in the last World Championships and ranked fifth in World Cup standings, set a blistering pace that Davis failed to match.

The Dutchman won with a time of one minute 45.57 seconds, more than half a second faster than Davis.

"I wanted it so bad," Tuitert said.

Davis, who won the 1000 metres on Thursday and was a big favourite to win another gold, finished second in 1:46.10. The American also took the silver medal in the 1500 metres in the 2006 Turin Games.

Norway's Havard Bokko, who raced in a pairing with Tuitert, was third in 1:46.13.

When Davis, who struggled over the last lap, failed to beat his time, Tuitert raised his arms in disbelief.

The smiling Tuitert waved to the frenzied sea of Orange-clad Dutch fans in the oval, while Davis was left scratching his head and throwing brief glances at the winner.

"I'm the happiest man alive," said Tuitert, who hugged and kissed his partner during a victory lap. "This is so amazing.

"I haven't won a race in four years. I knew I had it in me. I knew I had so much more in me. Finally, the whole thing came together."

Tuitert's talent carried him into the hearts of the skating-mad Dutch, who saw one of their own win the Olympic 1500 metres for the first time in 38 years as Tuitert followed in the footsteps of the great Ard Schenk, the 1972 Sapporo champion.

Tuitert's triumph also pushed the Dutch within two of their 100th Olympic gold medal in both Winter and Summer Games.

With Sven Kramer the overwhelming favourite in the 10,000 metres and a strong Dutch squad lined up for the team pursuit, a century mark celebration could shake the Holland House to its foundation.

Tuitert gave special thanks to his coach Jac Orie, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke of the man who stuck by him.

"I always had the confidence that I would be able to win the 1500 metres in a big competition," Tuitert said. "Every training I did in the last year was with that in mind.

"We devised a plan. The last couple of weeks it came together. I felt good. I haven't felt like this in years."

Davis was stunned.

"It's almost complete," the 27-year-old American said.

"In 2006 I won gold and silver. Here I won gold and silver. Maybe it's one of those things. I have to keep on plugging away and maybe I'll get them both."

Four years earlier in Turin it was unknown Italian Enrico Fabris who stunned Davis to top the podium.

"This is my favourite race. I have been wanting to win the 1500m Olympic gold medal ever since high school and now I find myself twice Olympic runner-up," Davis said.

"With Fabris (in 2006) no one expected it and Bam! Today it was Mark. I wanted to cap off the Olympics with the gold medal in this race so badly."

The Chicagoan said finishing second would keep him in the sport for another four years to give it another, last, try.

"Today hurts but I was just not able to pull it off. I still some day want to win this race. I told myself that if I come away with the gold medal in this I would take a break," he said.

"But this will keep me in skating. It will motivate me and inspire me and hopefully in four years from now at 31 years old I will compete with these up-and-coming young skaters," he said.

"These things happen for a reason and I am sure there is a lesson to learn. I will learn that lesson and will be back in four years."

Factbox on Tuitert:

Age: 29

Place of birth: Holten, Netherlands

Residence: Heerenveen, Netherlands

Previous major Olympic results: Bronze, 2006 Winter Olympics, Team Pursuit (Did not participate in the final)

Career achievements:

Gold, World Single Distances Championships, Team Pursuit

Silver, World Single Distances Championships, 1500m

Silver, World Single Distances Championships, 1500m

2x Champion, 2004/05, 2003/04 World Cup, 1500m

Bronze, 2007/08 World Cup, 1500m

Background:

Tuitert participated in inline skating until 1998 when he chose to become a professional speedskater. He made his debut for the Netherlands the following year.

The 29-year-old is coached by Jac Orie. He is an ambassador for the National Foundation for Child Support.

He is currently fifth in the 1500m World Cup rankings and fourth in the 1000m.

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