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Bródka tips Verweij by 0.003 seconds to win 1,500

Polish skater gives nation first speed skating gold; USA keeps struggling
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Zbigniew Bródka of Poland claimed the 1,500-meter gold by the skin of his teeth, edging Dutch skater Koen Verweij by a mere 0.003 points. Bródka crossed the line in 145.006. -Getty Images

The level of the competitors in the men's 1,500 meters at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games was extremely high, and for the first time in the history of the Winter Games, a Polish skater won a gold medal in speed skating.

Poland's Zbigniew Bródka took the distance by the smallest ever margin, defeating Dutch skater Koen Verweij by a mere 0.003 seconds. They both finished in 1:45.01, but the thousandths of a second (145.006 for Bródka and 145.009 for Verweij) decided the gold and silver. The bronze medal went to Canadian Denny Morrison, who already claimed the silver in the 1,000 meters.

It was the first distance after a week of skating that the Dutch team did not win.

"I have never seen so many skaters below 1:46 in a lowland competition," Norwegian coach Jarle Pedersen said afterward. "The first 12 could all have won."

How truly special it was to have so many times below 1:45 was evidenced by the fact that, last year, when the World Single Distance Championships were held in Sochi, American Shani Davis took silver behind Russian Denis Yuskov. Their times? Davis finished then in 1:46.83, with Yuskov was half a second faster.

"It was the perfect race that I had dreamed of, and I could profit off the race of Shani Davis, as I had last inner and Shani last outer," said Bródka, who was in the 17th pairing with Davis. "It is unbelievable, especially since we have no indoor rink and we spent so much time travelling all over Europe to train."

As for how close it was, Bródka sympathized with Verweij but was happy to win.

"On the podium, I said to Verweij, 'I'm sorry man, but that is sport,'" Bródka said.

"When I crossed the finish line, I saw that I had the same time, and I thought it was the winning time, but it was not," Verweij said. "It was a very [bad] feeling. At some point, I will be happy with this medal. It is still silver, but right now I'm not satisfied. It feels like a huge loss. The silver medalist is the first loser."

"The 1,000 meters really gave much confidence," Morrison said. "Also, it did lift a lot of pressure off my shoulders. I have been wanting it for eight years, and I have been trying to win an individual medal. It was a relief, but at the same time, I was pretty nervous for the 1,500 meters."

Brian Hansen was Team USA's top finisher, placing seventh in 1:45.59, and he felt more comfortable after a suit change.

"At least this skin suit works," Hansen said. "For me, personally, I have a reason not to win here, but the 1,000 (where he finished ninth) is a bit of a mystery for me."

Davis finished a disappointing 11th, crossing the line in 1:45.98.

"My 500 meters was OK, and then the 1,000 meters almost sucked all the life out of me," Davis said. "You have to live, knowing: I have the talent, I have done the work, but I do not have the result.

"Sometimes, the best you can do is not good enough. There were too many factors going on. The energy was really bad. I try not to make excuses for my performance, but if we could eliminate all those distractions and I could have put that energy into performing and skating, it would have been a totally different outcome."

Jonathan Kuck, the first U.S. skater to compete, felt comfortable in the older suit but did not perform well, winding up in 37th place with a time of 1:50.19.

"It wasn't a very good race for me, but I have no idea how the suit affected me," Kuck said. "I've been skating in this suit all season, and I feel more comfortable in it."

Joey Mantia, who was in the final pairing, finished 22nd for Team USA. He skated in 1:48.01.