Canadian long track speed skaters complete impressive pre-Olympic World Cup event with four medals

Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., Canada’s latest long track speed skating sensation, won the silver medal in the men’s 1,500 metres to highlight a four-medal day for the Canadians on Sunday to conclude the fifth stop on the World Cup circuit.

Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg notched her third silver of the weekend in the women’s 1,000 and Canada was also second in the women’s pursuit. Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., took the bronze in the men’s 500. Canada completed this weekend’s test event at the new indoor oval built for the February Olympic Games with five silver medals and three bronze.

In the men’s 1,500, Enrico Fabris of Italy won the gold medal in 1:46.46 with Morrison second in 1:46.82 and Chad Hedrick of the U.S., third in 1:47.58. Morrison, 20, also won bronze in the 1,000 on Saturday for his first career World Cup medal.

“I think it may have been my best ever 1,500 in the way I executed the race,” said Morrison, who raced in the last pair of the day. “I stuck to my plan. I didn’t rush at the start and was able to finish hard on the last lap. That’s the way I try to do it every time and I think I found the right momentum today. It probably would have been a personal best on the faster ice in Calgary.”

Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., was 14th. In the B Group Jay Morrison of Fort St. John was eighth and Jason Parker of Yorkton, Sask., 11th.

Hedrick clinched the World Cup 1,500 title with 330 points after four of five races while Morrison moved into second at 225.

In the women’s 1,000, Klassen was edged by her arch rival Anni Friesinger of Germany for the third straight race this weekend. Friesinger, who skated without a pair took the gold in 1:16.30, Klassen followed in 1:16.54 and Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., was third in 1:17.38.

Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., was fifth, Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg 12th and Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg 18th. Kerry Simpson of Melville, Sask., won the B group race with the eighth best time of the day.

In the 2,400-metre women’s pursuit, a new Olympic event for the Turin Games, Germany won the gold in 3:04.22. Canada with Nesbitt, Kristina Groves of Ottawa and Clara Hughes of Winnipeg was second in 3:06.15 and Japan third in 3:06.45. A second Canadian trio was ninth.

“We tried some different tactics and adapted very well,” said Hughes. “Christine was particularly outstanding having just raced the 1,000. We’re confident we’ll have our best races in February at the Olympics.”

In the men’s 500, Joji Kato of Japan took the gold in 35.29 with Dmitri Dorofeyev of Russia second in 35.32 and Wotherspoon, who had the best lap of the day, third in 35.37.

“It was a good race but there are still some technical aspects I need to shore up,” said Wotherspoon. “It was really good to have this event here before the Olympics and get a feel for the ice. We also saw it’s a very competitive field in the 500 for the guys right now and it’s only going to get stronger as we approach the Olympics.”

Mark Nielsen of Calgary was second in the B Group while Brock Miron of Calgary and Vincent Labrie of Ste-Foy, Que., tied for 11th.

Kang Seok-Lee of South Korea still leads the 500 World Cup standings with 446 points after six of 12 races. Wotherspoon closed to within 16 points at 430.