Jeremy Wotherspoon's Olympic past feeds the fire
Fellow 1998, 2002 Olympian can relate to comeback
I remember it as if it were yesterday.
It was the 2002 Olympics and our entire team was in the Hockey Canada 'family and friends' room. It was loud with chatter as we all took time to visit the people that meant so much to us.
The TVs were all on, and speed skater Jeremy Wotherspoon was just about to race the 500 metres. I think all of us in the room knew that he was the best athlete that the Canadian Olympic team had in any sport.
Wotherspoon was expected to win gold, given his accomplishments, talent and work ethic. We were excited to watch as the complete silence in the room indicated.
Then everyone in the room gasped in unison, and the moment that was supposed to be so wonderful was disappointing. Wotherspoon had fallen right after the gun went off. What we all felt at that very moment was nothing compared to what he must must have felt. Imagine being the best at something, and yet at the moment you wanted to prove that, it was gone.
I have always been a huge fan of Jeremy Wotherspoon. On many occasions at the Olympic Oval in Calgary I got to see his skating talents first hand, as well as the work ethic that went along with it. He was also just a genuine, down to earth, shy guy who just so happened to be one of the greatest athletes this country has ever seen.
Wotherspoon has had the idea of a comeback to speed skating to make the Sochi Olympic team for quite some time. Even after retiring in 2010, he could never see himself as anything but a speed skater.
His accomplishments on the World Cup circuit are second to none, but it's been the Olympic disappointments that feed his fire. At the 1998 Winter Games, it was a loss to Japanese skater Hiroyasu Shimizu, leaving him with a silver in the 500. In 2002, it was that unlucky fall. In 2006 he simply tried to be too perfect in order to make up for the disappointment four years earlier. Injuries, most notably a broken arm in the run-up to the Vancouver Games, left him not at his best for the 2010 Olympics.
Like any other Olympian he wishes he was "better at the Olympics." If his sport was covered year round and not just every four years the general public would know just how amazing an athlete he really is, and that he should be celebrated.
Coaching in Europe since his retirement has helped give him a new perspective on the events of his career. At the urging of his employer in Germany, good friend Marnix Wieberdink, Wotherspoon has joined the KIA Speed Skating Academy. It's a team which skaters join when they don't have ideal situations, and a program which tries to develop the sport of speed skating by bringing more athletes into the World Cup fold.
Through all of this he has become a father. Daughter Ella has taught him to be more patient, no matter if it's a good or bad day. He has learned to accept things when they are done and, more importantly, he has learned that he has to deal with these experiences in order to move on.
He didn't qualify for the World Cups at the recent team trials in Calgary, so there will be fewer races to compete in, but this will allow him to focus more on his training. There will be no carding to help with travel and expenses as he moves closer to Olympic trials in December.
For the best male speed skater in terms of World Cup victories, he just might be amazing enough to come back qualify for the Olympics and win the gold.