Gold medal winners Saturday will get out-of-this-world bonus

SOCHI, Russia — Winners of the seven Olympic finals Saturday will find a little extra something in their gold medals.

Feb. 15 is the one-year anniversary of the meteorite crash in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, and the gold medals on that day with be embedded with fragments of the meteorite.

The crash injured 1,600 people in the region and caused an estimated $33 million in damage.

Tiny chunks were taken from the recovered meteorite and placed into the medals.

Speedskater Brian Hansen, who trains at the Pettit National Ice Center, pointed out that Chelyabinsk has an indoor speedskating oval. Hansen and Shani Davis race in the 1,500 on Saturday.

"It’s especially symbolic because the meteorite happened to hit one of the only long-track speedskating rinks in the world," Hansen said. "There’s only about 30 or 40 indoor rinks in the world and it hit one of them. We had a World Cup there in 2012.

"I was reading on Facebook posts that the ground shook and kids were running outside in the their skates. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s the chance that a meteorite hit a speedskating rink and now what’s the chance that they’re going to give a piece of it to a speedskater at the Olympics?’ It’s like the craziest thing ever. What are the odds of all that happening?"

Davis, who also trains at the Pettit Center, has won the silver medal in the 1,500 in the last two Winter Games and would like nothing better than to win gold Saturday, especially after his eighth-place finish in the 1,000.

Davis was only vaguely aware of the special medal.

"There's like some crystal or something in it, right?" he said.

Told it was a fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite, Davis said, "Wow. Really? Good luck trying to get that one through customs."

Two other Wisconsin athletes will have a chance to win the special medal: Alyson Dudek of Hales Corners in the women's 1,500-meter short-track race, and Matt Antoine of Prairie du Chien in men's skeleton (if he gets through preliminary rounds Friday).

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