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That final thump is the door closing

Perhaps you will remember the way he dragged his feet. Perhaps you will remember the way he thumped his chest.

Perhaps you will remember that he did both all the way to farewell.

Chad Hedrick was leaving the room now, leaving the rink, leaving the Olympics, and still, he could not help himself. He was talking about the size of his heart and the depth of his passion and the iron of his will.

What he was not talking about, particularly, was the color of his medal.

That, or the depth of his embarrassment.

Hedrick whiffed again Friday. Mighty Chad finished with the silver medal in the 10,000-meter race, another event in which he had declared himself the speed skater to beat and another in which someone promptly did.

Well, oops.

What's that they say in Texas? Tall hat and no cattle? That pretty much sums up Hedrick, who leaves these Games with a matched set: one gold, one silver, one bronze.

Not a bad haul for a quiet man, if you think about it. But considering the crow of this particular rooster, and the expectations of Team Hedrick, it was hardly the stuff of dreams.

This was the one-for-the-thumb kid, the look-at-me skater who was going to chase down Eric Heiden's records. Five golds, his supporters said, and although Hedrick insists he never said it, he didn't pull a muscle rushing to disagree. Even Hedrick seemed to think he would win three golds; before the last two races, he pointed out that he held the records in both and that he would be favored. At the time, he seemed to like the idea.

That's what happens when you point toward the fences. No one gets excited when you hit for the cycle.

No one but Chad, of course, and bless his delusional soul.

"My heart is bigger than anyone else's out there," Hedrick said. "If other people had felt the way I did out there, they wouldn't be on the podium. That was just me, refusing to lose."

Um, Chad. Excuse me.

You did lose.

That's Chad, though, still refusing to shut up, still declining to put up. A few days ago, it was Hedrick who suggested that his competition was "the gold or nothing. You don't get anything for silver."

By Friday, however, he was talking about his strategy in beating Carl Verheijen for second place. Verheijen said that when Hedrick slowed down to rest enough to make sure he won silver, however, he sacrificed any chance at the gold.

"I really dug deep," Hedrick said. "I wasn't going to lay down for anybody."

Oh.

Perhaps you will remember him for the race in which he won. Perhaps you will remember him for the race in which he whined.

In the years to come, do you think anyone is going to mention a first, a second and a third when they talk about Hedrick's Olympics? Nope. They're going to talk about the way he and teammate Shani Davis turned into third-graders fighting over a swing set at recess. Team Lunkhead, these two.

Now that it is all over, of course, you would like to think that the skaters are a bit embarrassed about the way the feud escalated into snarls, snits and snubs. Ah, but that isn't Chad, either.

"I wouldn't do anything different than what I've done," he said. "I've enjoyed myself. I've been honest with myself. I've represented my country the best I can, and everyone's going to see that."

Now, this is going to shock you, simply shock you, but Team Hedrick seems to believe that the feud was all a media invention. Bart Schouten, his coach, suggested that it was all "blown out of proportion." Hedrick talked about "the boiling point you guys pushed on us."

Oh, come on. It wasn't the media that made Davis pull out of the pursuit, which made Hedrick mad, and it wasn't the media that blocked Hedrick from shaking Davis' hand, which made Davis mad, and it wasn't the media that made Davis walk out of the press room, which made pro wrestling look logical.

Here's the kicker: By Friday, Hedrick pretty much seemed to agree with Davis that the pursuit was a bad idea.

In 2010, and Hedrick says he'll be there, he says he will look at the schedule and probably eliminate one race. He says that individual events are more important than the pursuit. Oh, and he says he wants to win as many medals in as many events as possible.

"Sometimes I went out there and I was 75 percent," Hedrick said. "I feel like I left a lot of medals out there. I won my first one and went oh-for-four. I let myself down a few times."

In particular, Hedrick said he was toast by Friday. He started well, at one point being two seconds ahead of the pace of winner Bob de Jong's pace. But he began to tire, and every lap for 14 straight, a bit of that edge slipped away.

"I could have quit with 10 laps to go," Hedrick said. "I was going to prove to everyone how big my heart was."

This should be said. There is nothing wrong with Hedrick going for a lot of medals, just the way there was nothing wrong with Michael Phelps going for a lot of swimming medals in Athens. Ambition is a good thing in athletics. It makes the spectacular possible.

But Hedrick needs to gain a lot of get-it before the next Olympics. It's understandable if he was ticked at Davis for not being in the pursuit (and understandable that Davis concentrated on individual events). But the lingering bitterness made both skaters smaller.

Even on Friday, Schouten was grousing about how a wheel on Hedrick's skate cost him the 1,500. Well, shouldn't someone have fix it? Isn't equipment repair part of the deal? And shouldn't someone have figured out that Hedrick would be a bit tuckered by the weekend?

In the end, it was the overstatements as much as the underachievement that stuck to Hedrick's shoe. There was never any humility present, never any compromise. He was Chad, four golds short of a promise.

Perhaps it is the performance you will remember. Perhaps it was the petulance. Or perhaps this:

Given enough time, perhaps you won't remember him at all.

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