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Fourth-Place Medal

Team USA’s last chance at Olympic history

Shani Davis of the U.S. competes in the second heat of the men's 500-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Sochi, Russia
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Shani Davis of the U.S. competes in the second heat of the men's 500-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

As the Sochi Games were nearing back in January, the United States had three men eyeing history in becoming the first American man to win three gold medals in a single event.

For two of the three, their Olympic dreams have not come to fruition, leaving just one man with a chance to still make history in Sochi: speedskater Shani Davis.

Seth Wescott, 37, had won both of the gold medals awarded in snowboardcross since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 2006 and was hoping for a three-peat, but wasn’t able to make the team for Sochi.

Snowboarding superstar Shaun White, 27, was largely the favorite to win a third gold in the halfpipe competition in Sochi, despite strong challengers from Team USA - Danny Davis and Greg Bretz.

[Related: American snowboarder blasts the Sochi halfpipe as 'garbage']

In Sochi, however, it was Iouri Podladtchikov (nicknamed I-Pod) of Switzerland who stood on the top of the podium with a score of 94.75. After falling in his first run and earning a score of 35, White put up a mostly-solid second run, but a few bobbled landings gave him 90.25, which was not even enough to get on the medal stand behind a pair of Japanese athletes, Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka, with scores of 93.50 and 92.25, respectively.

White’s semifinal run earned him a score of 95.75, which would have won him the historic gold had he thrown it down in the finals.

White withstood his fair share of criticism from his teammates. Bretz said he was hoping for a Team USA sweep in the halfpipe…without Shaun White on the podium. After placing fourth with his 90.25 score, teammate Davis told Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, “Fourth was a gift, man.” Bretz and Davis placed 10th and 12th and a fourth American competitor, Taylor Gold, didn’t make it into the finals.

Additionally, White had initially intended to also participate in the inaugural slopestyle competition, but dropped the event in order to focus wholly on the halfpipe. It was what no one would have expected, White left Sochi medal-less.

[Related: Critical Canadians miss the slopestyle podium]

So if history is to be made in Sochi, it will be up to Chicago-native Shani Davis. Davis, 31, is already a back-to-back gold medalist in the 1000m, back-to-back silver medalist in the 1500m, world record holder in the 1000m and the 1500m, and the first black athlete from any nation to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

In Sochi, Davis already competed in the 500m and placed 24th, but there’s no need to panic, Davis typically uses the 500 as prep for his marquee events.

The 1000m competition is Feb. 11, and Davis is once again considered the favorite in the event. If he succeeds, he will be the first American man with three golds in the same event as well as the first male skater to win gold in the same event in three different Olympics.

However, White is an example that chasing history is no easy feat, and even the favorites falter.

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