TURIN, Italy - Chad Hedrick was standing in front of the Olympic press center on Saturday, coming from yet another interview and waiting impatiently for a car to pick him up.
No time to waste if he wants to reap the rewards of those three medals. The window of opportunity doesn’t last long when you’re a speedskater from the United States, so the ever-talkative Hedrick was off to meetings with potential sponsors, sprinkled around a return visit to Jay Leno’s couch.
“You’ve got to move quick,” Hedrick said, flashing that Texas-sized smile.
Hedrick will go down as the biggest American star in Turin, the guy who joined Eric Heiden and Sheila Young as the only U.S. Winter Olympians to win as many as three medals at a single games.
He’ll also be remembered for his nasty feud with teammate Shani Davis, which blew up in front of the world’s media and made them both look petty.
Not that Hedrick was the least bit repentant. Not his style.
“I wouldn’t do anything different,” he said. “I enjoyed myself. I was honest with myself. I represented my country the best I can. I’m sure everybody back home is going to see that.”
Hedrick blew off any harsh feelings between him and Davis.
“You guys,” Hedrick told reporters, “think about it more than Shani and I do. Shani and I are just out there skating fast. That’s all we’re doing. You guys have not seen the last of Shani and I. I’ll be in Vancouver and I’m sure he will be, too, leading a new group of American skaters.”
Hedrick’s coach, Bart Schouten, hopes the two can work things out.
“Sure, some words have been exchanged,” Schouten said. “They’ve been talking about training together next year, and I hope they still feel that way.”
Hedrick might do a few things different when he returns for the 2010 Vancouver Games. He was admittedly tired by the time he got to the last of his five events, Friday’s 10,000 meters, and grew weary of all the talk about challenging Eric Heiden’s record five gold medals.
“Heiden was a freak of nature,” Hedrick said. “I never said, 'Hey, I’m going to be the next Eric Heiden.' To say I was going to win five gold medals would have just been blowing smoke.”
Hedrick was the world record holder in both the 1,500 and 10,000, but managed only bronze and silver in those events. He finished sixth in the 1,000 — an event he rarely skates in competition — and led the U.S. team that was eliminated in the quarterfinals of pursuit, despite the second-fastest time of the event.
“I feel like I left a lot of races out there,” Hedrick said. “I won the first one, then I went 0-for-4. I’m a little upset about it.”
Schouten was much kinder in his assessment.
“For a rookie, he did pretty good with a gold, silver, and bronze,” the coach said. “This is his first Olympics. There’s so much new stuff, a whole new experience. The guy’s still very new to speed skating. It’s only his third season, so I’m very happy with how he did and how he held up. He learned a ton.”
Check out the best images from the 2006 Winter Olympics.