Jeremy Wotherspoon wins 500 in return at national team selection meet

Jeremy Wotherspoon, Photo: Arno Hoogveld
CALGARY – Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., displayed mid-season form his first official race in over a year on Thursday as he kicked off the long track speed skating national team meet with the fastest time in the opening men’s 500-metres.

Wotherspoon, who sat out last season to contemplate his future, clocked a scintillating 34.51 seconds which equals the fourth fastest time in history. He neared his Canadian record of 34.37, one of the world’s best times. The world record currently stands at 34.25 and is held by Kang-Seok Lee of Korea.

The 500 for the men and women is a two-race combined time. The second 500 is on Friday.

‘’I’m pretty happy with that,’’ said Wotherspoon, who turns 31 on Friday. ‘’I’ve been feeling good on the ice and the training program that’s been put in place this year has been really beneficial. I was a little nervous. This was my first competition with something on the line in one year and seven months. It was nice to get it going again. I’m really looking forward to this season.’’

Vincent Labrie of St-Romuald, Que., was second in 35.16, Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., third in 35.17 and Mark Nielsen of Calgary fourth in 35.24.

Back problems hindered Wotherspoon his previous two seasons of competition and he’s intent on preventing a reoccurrence of those injuries.

‘’I don’t want to sacrifice my plans to keep my back healthy and my body balanced,’’ he said. ‘’I’ve been able to really focus on improving the technical things on the ice without straying from my plan so far this year. It’s been very good so far.’’

This week’s selection will help determine the Canadian team for this fall’s World Cups. Canada has been allotted the maximum five quota spots for each distance. Members of last year’s world single distance team were pre selected to the team. For the 500, the pre-selected skaters are Mike Ireland of Winnipeg, Brock Miron of Calgary and Morrison

In the women’s 1,000, Kristina Groves of Ottawa posted the win in 1:15.42 with Cindy

Kristina Groves, Photo: Arno Hoogveld
Klassen of Winnipeg second in 1:16.48 and Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg third in 1:17.30. Svetlana Radkevich of Belarus was fourth and Kim Weger of Regina fifth. Groves, Klassen and Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., have been pre-selected.

‘’I’ve put in a lot of work on my speed this year so I’m pretty happy with how it went,’’ said Groves, about a second off her personal best time. ‘’My opener needs some work but once I got skating the two laps felt really good and smooth. I still regard the 1,000 as a preparation for the 1,500 and 3,000. It’s a fun race for me but I know I got potential in it.’’

In the women’s 500, Beixing Wang of China was the winner in 37.93 with Nesbitt second in 38.78 and Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg and Xiaomei Sheng of China tied for third at 39.22. Groves was fifth. Klassen was sixth, Kim Weger of Regina seventh and Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer eighth. Rempel and Weger have been pre-selected.

Competition continues through to Sunday.