Host City: Torino, Italy
Venue(s): Lingotto Oval, Torino
Date Started: February 15, 2006
Date Finished: February 16, 2006
Format: Teams of three skaters, time of the third skater counts.
The inaugural Olympic team pursuit event had two major favorites, the Netherlands, which had won the 2005 World Championships, and the United States. The latter team was expected to feature 5000 m champion Chad Hedrick and eventual 1000 m champion Shani Davis. However, Davis forfeited his spot on the team to focus on individual events, at the displeasure of Hedrick, who had announced his goal of five golds prior to the Games. This incident was blown up by the US press, but Davis did not compete.
A weak time by the Americans in the ranking round left them drawn against Italy, who had been silver medalists at the first World Championships the previous year. Despite strong efforts by Hedrick, the Italians advanced to the semi-finals against the Dutch. In a close race, up and coming star Sven Kramer stumbled, taking a team mate with him and leaving the Italians certain of a medal. In the other semi-final, the well-trained Canadians easily outraced Norway.
In the final, the Italians were much stronger then their opponents, and grabbed their country’s first ever Olympic speed skating title. Italian newspaper reports of the victory spent much of their columns on explaining the sport to readers unfamiliar with it. Enrico Fabris was the team’s captain, having won Italy’s first ever bronze medal earlier that week in the 5000 m, and winning the 1500 m later in the Games. Ippolito Sanfratello, had been an inline skater for most of his career, but had switched to the ice to compete in the Olympics.