By Eric Gold, Olympic Staff Writer
(Sports Network) - At age 31, this could be speed skater Shani Davis' fourth and final Olympics. It will be hard for the Chicago native to top his performance from the past two Winter Games.
Davis, who will anchor a solid U.S. long track speed skating team in Sochi, is trying to become the first American male athlete to win three consecutive gold medals in the same event at the Winter Games. He took first-place finishes in the 1,000 meters in Torino in 2006 and again in Vancouver four years later.
The first black athlete from any country to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the Winter Olympics, Davis is expected to participate in the 1,000 and 1,500 in Russia. He captured the 1,000 at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials in late December.
There are 12 events in long track speed skating with the competition to take place at Adler Arena. The men will race in distances of 500, 1,000, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000, while the women compete at distances of 500, 1,000, 1,500, 3,000, and 5,000. There are also team pursuits for both the men and women.
The United States was shut out of medals in the 500 in both the men and women at the last Olympics, and Americans won only four medals in Vancouver. Davis was at the forefront with half of that medal haul.
Joining Davis on the men's squad are Tucker Fredricks, Jonathan Garcia, Brian Hansen, Jonathan Kuck, Emery Lehman, Joey Mantia, Patrick Meek and Mitch Whitmore.
Fredricks, who turns 30 in April, competed at the previous two Winter Games, finishing 24th in the 500 in 2006 and 12th in the same event four years ago.
Hansen and Kuck were part of the silver medal-winning squad in the men's team pursuit four years ago, and came in 18th place in the 1,500.
The 17-year-old Lehman set a junior national record in the 10,000, while Mantia is expected to compete in four of the disciplines in Sochi. Meek gets ready for his first Olympics, while Whitmore tries to improve on his 37th-place showing in the 500 in Vancouver.
Brittany Bowe, Lauren Cholewinski, Kelly Gunther, Maria Lamb, Heather Richardson, Anna Ringsred, Jilleanne Rookard and Sugar Todd make up the U.S. women's squad.
Bowe set a world record in the 100 last year, Cholewinski was 30th in the 500 in Vancouver and Gunther was an alternate four years ago.
Lamb will participate in her third Olympics. Richardson participated in three events in Vancouver with a best finish of sixth place in the 500, and she captured the 2013 World Cup overall title in the 1,000. Ringsred heads to her first Olympics, while the 30-year-old Rookard should provide a challenge in the 3,000. Sugar Todd is expected to compete in the 1,000.
The Canadian speed skating team isn't expected to be named until Jan. 22, but it will aim to repeat as champion in the men's pursuit.
Four years ago, the team of Mathieu Giroux, Lucas Makowsky and Denny Morrison won gold. Christine Nesbitt aims to repeat the gold she won in the 1,000 in Vancouver. She also captured a silver in the team pursuit eight years ago.
Sven Kramer will aim for gold in Sochi. The Dutch skater, who won the 5,000 in Vancouver and finished with a silver in the same event four years ago, has four Olympic medals.
Controversy was the big topic four years ago for Kramer, who finished four seconds ahead of Lee Seung-Hoon in the 10,000. Kramer, though, was disqualified for an incorrect lane change when his coach waived him into the wrong lane. Kramer erupted after the race by throwing his glasses and pushing his coach.
Dutchwoman Ireen Wuest has two gold medals under her belt, one from Torino and one from Vancouver. She will likely participate in every race, except the 500.
01/16 09:53:04 ET