Hansen, U.S. teammates struggle in 1,500-meter speedskating

 
By Anna Kook
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 2/13/2018 1:19 PM
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  • A blur on the ice, Brian Hansen of the United State, left, and Zbigniew Brodka of Poland compete during the men's 1,500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

    A blur on the ice, Brian Hansen of the United State, left, and Zbigniew Brodka of Poland compete during the men's 1,500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Associated Press

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Brian Hansen stood at the start line and realized he ate too much.

"This is just going to sound like a big excuse but I felt like I had Thanksgiving out there," Hansen said. "It took me awhile to take my skates off because I was going to throw up for a good 30 minutes."

After the overbearing pre-race dinner, which included huge portions of rice, Hansen placed 15th Tuesday in the 1,500-meter final with a time of 1 minute 46.44 seconds.

"It was honestly so stupid. I was nervous and it sounds stupid but I just misgauged it," Hansen said.

The Netherlands took both the gold and silver medals, as Kjeld Nuis skated first place in 1 minute 44.01 seconds and Patrick Roest finished in 1 minute 44.86 seconds. South Korean Kim Min-seok took bronze.

U.S. team Joey Mantia, who ranked third in the world, placed eighth, and Evanston native Shani Davis, a silver medalist at this distance in the 2010 Vancouver Games, finished 19th.

Shani Davis of the U.S. competes during the men's 1,500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Shani Davis of the U.S. competes during the men's 1,500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. - Associated Press

Hansen, silver medalist in the 2010 team pursuit, has a chance at redemption in the team pursuit race coming up on Feb 21.

"I can't wait to get back on the ice tomorrow and start training. I think the three of us are starting to click in that race and we have everything to gain and nothing to lose," Hansen said.

Aside from his pre-race dinner, Brian makes sure to eat something else before each race: blue M & M's. Hansen has suffered severe lower back issues for the past five years, which he tried various ways to help assuage. He said he found comfort in blue M & M's.

"My grandpa and cousin read somewhere that blue food coloring is good for your back, and so they recommended I try eating them," Hansen said in an earlier interview. "Even if it's just a placebo, it always helps me feel like I have an extra edge."

The 27-year-old and three time Olympian grew up training at the Northbrook Speed Skating Club, and spent most of his time before the Olympics training at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. Upon his return from South Korea, he plans to spend time away from the ice.

"I have a list of 20 to 30 jobs I've been making in the Milwaukee and Chicago area," Hansen said.

His response when asked if that meant retirement from skating: "Yeah probably, to be honest."

Hansen won a silver medal in the 2010 Olympics, and placed seventh in the 1500 m race at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. After his disappointment in Sochi, her took two years off to attend the University of Colorado, where he earned a degree in business and gained a fresh perspective on life off the ice.

While that unusually long break set up the next chapter to his life, it also may have contributed to his disappointing finish in Pyeongchang on Tuesday.

"I don't regret it but it made the comeback a lot more difficult. Two years off is not something common you see," Hansen said.

While Hansen spent his last break off ice in college and mountain biking, his next hiatus will be to enter the job world.

"I have a couple weeks to wind down after this and then be entering a completely new world for me," he said.

Joey Mantia of the U.S., right, and Norway's Sverre Lunde Pedersen compete during the men's 1,500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.
Joey Mantia of the U.S., right, and Norway's Sverre Lunde Pedersen compete during the men's 1,500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. - Associated Press

• Anna Kook, a graduate student at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, is covering Illinois athletes at the 2018 Winter Games for the Daily Herald, Follow her on Twitter @ annakook.

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