Jamie Gregg, Gilmore Junio aim for speed skating podium
South Korea's Mo looks to repeat as Olympic champion
Alberta natives Jamie Gregg and Gilmore Junio step to the line Monday in men’s 500-metre speed skating, hoping to get Canada its first long track medal in Sochi.
It will be no easy task. The men’s 500 has been arguably the most competitive distance this World Cup season, with 10 different competitors accounting for the 24 medals handed out.
Gregg and Junio are among that group. The 28-year-old Edmontonian Gregg has a pair of bronze medals to his credit, while “Happy” Gilmore of Calgary stunned the field on the fast track at Salt Lake City by tying for first place on Nov. 15.
Gregg’s Olympic experience is a family affair. Wife Danielle Wotherspoon-Gregg is a teammate and sister Jessica Gregg is a short-track competitor.
On the ice, the 500 is his sole event. He finished eighth at the 2010 Olympics and fourth at last year’s sprint championships, among other notable competitions.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Junio’s exploits on the ice have gained attention in the Philippines, where his parents were born.
The last time Canada won individual men’s medals in long track, it was in the 500. Jeremy Wotherspoon won silver at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, with Kevin Overland taking bronze.
All three skaters who were on the 2010 Olympic podium at the distance are in contention again: Gold winner Tae-bum Mo of South Korea, and Japan natives Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato.
The powerhouse Dutch often have twin candidates for medals at any distance, but in this case it’s in a literal sense. Ronald and Michel Mulder have each won World Cup races in the 500 this year, while compatriot Jan Smeekens was third behind Mo and Kato in Sochi last year at the single distance championships.
Canada will have four entrants at the distance. William Dutton of Humboldt, Sask. laces up for the first of two Olympic events. He is coached by 1976 gold medal winner Peter Mueller, who has trained legends Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen and several Dutch greats, but whose style has ruffled feathers over the years.
Dutton had an encouraging fifth place showing at last month's sprint championships in Japan, finishing ahead of the likes of Nagashima and Ronald Mulder.
Muncef Ouardi is also competing in the 500 and 1,000 for Canada. The Quebec City native has a Twitter handle of “thaSheik,” a light-hearted play on his Moroccan roots.
Elsewhere, Tucker Fredericks of the U.S. and Russian Artyom Kuznetsov also have the potential to reach the podium.
Olympic record: Casey FitzRandolph, 34.42 seconds, Salt Lake City, Feb. 11, 2002
World record: Jeremy Wotherspoon, 34.03 seconds, Salt Lake City, Nov. 9, 2007
Olympic long track schedule:
- Monday, Feb. 10: Men's 500
- Tuesday, Feb. 11: Women's 500
- Wednesday, Feb. 12: Men's 1,000
- Thursday, Feb. 13: Women's 1,000
- Saturday, Feb. 15: Men's 1,500
- Sunday, Feb. 16: Women's 1500
- Tuesday, Feb. 18: Men's 10,000
- Wednesday, Feb. 19: Women's 5,000
- Friday Feb. 21: Team pursuit qualification
- Saturday, Feb. 22: Team pursuit semis, final