By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American speed skater Chad Hedrick burned with desire to excel at the 2006 Turin Games, dreaming of five gold medals.

He claimed three medals, one golden, but also allowed his frustration to spill over into a public feud with team mate Shani Davis.

Now the elder statesman of a young U.S. squad, the 32-year-old Hedrick has mellowed and vowed to enjoy himself in one last go around in Vancouver's Winter Olympic competition.

"The Chad Hedrick of 2006 is quite a bit different from the Chad Hedrick going to Vancouver," he told Reuters in a recent interview. "I've made quite a few transformations in my life.

"I'm a married man now. I've got my first child, who's 10 months old and I just got baptized here a couple of months ago and became a Christian.

"My whole approach to life has changed. I'm so content with my life now. Before it was like Chad Hedrick against the world. Now it's a different guy."

Hedrick won Turin gold in the 5000 meters, silver in the 10,000m and 1500m bronze.

That sort of bad temper is a thing of the past, said Hedrick who will race the 1000, 1500 and 5000 meters.

"My relationship with Shani is great," he said. "We're competitors and we drive each other.


"Without him on the other side of the track I wouldn't skate as fast, and I'm sure he'd say the same. We're excited to be competing against each other and I hope America's proud that they have two of the best skaters in the world.

"Chad in 2006 was this guy who thought the world was after him. Now I'm going to go to the Olympics in 2010 and I'm going to have a great time and make a lot of special memories and go out there and perform my best."

The Texan has switched trainers to 2002 Olympic gold medalist Derek Parra and said he felt great about his form.

Hedrick took eight months off after the last Olympics and was not sure whether he would stay with it.

"After winning a gold medal, it's hard to figure out if you want to chase the same dream again," he said.

"There's nothing I can do better than winning the gold medal.

"It took a while for me to realize I still had the passion and the talent to go out there and perform at this level.

"These guys are not playing around. They're talented athletes so it takes a lot to win. It's been a climb to get back to the top.

"But I'm ready to go out there and do it."

Hedrick said he could be peaking at the right moment. "It looks like I'm coming into my own at the right time and I've got a chance to go out there and prove to the world that I'm still the best."

Hedrick was optimistic about U.S. chances in general.

"The U.S. speedskating team this year, as far as long track is concerned, is very strong. Of course we had a great performance in Turin, winning three gold medals of the six races. That's a pretty strong performance.

"We're going to go there with just as much talent this year if not more, with a lot of young skaters that are coming and trying to prove themselves."

Hedrick would love to go out on top. "This is going to be the end of my career in Vancouver. I've accomplished my main goal and here I am in Vancouver trying to duplicate it again.

"Being four years older, that's a big difference when you're 32 years old competing against 20, 25 year olds. That's a big deal.

"For me to have the chance to go and do it a second time is just great. I think I'm where I need to be."

(Editing by Jon Bramley)