Speed Skating

The Canadian Press - Friday Oct. 18, 2013 03:19 ET

Jeremy Wotherspoon hits snag in speed skating comeback

Falls short at World Cup team trials

Jeremy Wotherspoon
Canadian speedskater Jeremy Wotherspoon is determined to make an Olympic comeback in Sochi. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

Long track speedskater Jeremy Wotherspoon missed qualifying for Canada's World Cup team at the 500 metres time trials in Calgary on Thursday.

Wotherspoon, who had retired at the end of the 2009-10 World Cup season, announced his comeback bid in June.

The 36-year-old will race the 1,000 metres at the Olympic Oval on Friday, but the 500 metres is his specialty. 

Wotherspoon holds the world record in the 500, with a time of 34.03 seconds that he set in 2007. He held the 1,000 record on seven separate occasions between 1997 and 2001.

The Olympic trials for Canada's long track speed skating team take place Dec. 28 to Jan. 3. Wotherspoon believes that's enough time to get his race legs back and compete for a medal at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

"As much as I'd like to do 500-metre World Cups, it's not my main goal," he said. "My goal is to build and build towards the Olympics.

"I know there's still a couple of months before the Olympics trials. After that, there's a month and a half before the Olympics so, it'll come quick, but it's still a lot of days for me to focus and lot of days for me to build up to that competition."

The men's 500-metre rankings were determined by the combined time of two races, but Wotherspoon stepped to the start line three times Thursday. He was given a re-race of his opening 500 metres because the other skater in his pairing, Patrick Marsh, blocked him on the backstretch during the lane change. So after posting a time of 35.43 seconds in his second race, Wotherspoon skated alone in his re-race for a time of 35.69.

"It was a tougher day than I expected," he said. "It's not a normal competition feeling when you're by yourself at the end. It feels a bit like the competition is over. 

"It's a good test, a good mental test. Even though I'm old and experienced, it was a new experience. It was a good test to try and perform well under difficult circumstances."

The Red Deer, Alta., native told CBC Calgary in June he'd been training since the beginning of this year for the self-described "last shot." He added that he hadn't completely let himself get out of shape, as he's been coaching skaters in Europe since retiring.

Though Wotherspoon won silver in the 500 metres at the Nagano Games in 1998, his other Olympic performances were marked by disappointment. He fell at the beginning of the 500 metres at the 2002 Olympics, and finished no better than ninth in any of his individual races in Turin (2006) and Vancouver (2010).

"Of course it plays into it the fact I never won an Olympic gold medal, I would never train to just participate," said Wotherspoon, who turns 37 on Oct. 26.

Wotherspoon won 67 World Cup races, three 500-metre world titles and another in the 1,000, plus four world sprint championships during his career. He was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. 

Edmonton's Jamie Gregg, Calgary's Gilmore Junio, William Dutton of Humboldt, Sask., Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., and Alexandre St-Jean of Quebec City finished first to fifth in the men's 500 metres.

The Canadian trials continue Friday until Sunday. The top five racers in all distances qualify to race the first four World Cups of the season with the exception of the men's 5,000 and 10,000 metres, in which only three skaters will be named to the Canadian team.

The World Cup season opens Nov. 8-10 in Calgary followed by stops in Salt Lake City; Astana, Kazakhstan, and Berlin.

 - With files from CBCSports.ca

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