Wotherspoon had bigger fish to fry this season

Article by Jolanda Abbes - The Olympics have never been that successful for Jeremy Wotherspoon despite an incredibly impressive career at the World Championships and World Cups. After his disappointing performances at last year’s Olympics in Torino and an ongoing back injury, he decided to take this post-Olympic season off to regain his motivation for speed skating and give his body the rest it obviously needed. So what has he been up to this past season and will he be back next year?

Jeremy Wotherspoon, 30, has had an amazing speed skating career, with more World Cup victories than any other male speed skater, and several World Sprint titles. But compared to these results, his Olympic performances may be considered disappointing, with only one silver medal in the 500m after three Olympic Games. After all the ups and downs during his long career, he decided to take a break after last season’s end: ‘The reason I took a break was to rest my body a bit after so many years of using it the same way. I have had an ongoing injury in my back and I am giving it time to heal now. It is also important for me to rest my mind, so this break will give me a chance to become remotivated and excited to race again." However, even though Wotherspoon obviously needed a physical and mental break from speed skating, he did not decide to retire from speed skating completely just yet: "I thought about it a bit, but I never felt ready to retire. I know that there is more I can do before I quit one day, and that is what I am aiming for now."

So what did the previous season look like for Wotherspoon? There were several podium finishes at the World Cups, and at the World Sprints he raced a bad first 500m, which eventually caused him to end up 42nd overall, despite a gold medal in the second 1000m. After that, he placed 11th in the 1000m and ninth in the 500m at the Olympics. In short, it may have been a disappointing season for someone who is used to winning World Sprint titles and World Cups. "It was a frustrating season. I was working very hard to feel good skating but it was tough to get that feeling going. There were very few races that I was happy with and I think the training I did, could have been better. In a way it was good though, because now I have a better idea what I need for skating. So I started the steps to make some changes in my program and the people that will be implementing it, and I am happy with the possibilities right now."

Because he was not planning to retire from speed skating completely, Wotherspoon still did some training this season to stay in shape for the years to come: "I trained regularly this year, but not the same volume or intensity as usual, and right now I am not training.’ So instead of spending most of his time on speed skating in one way or another, Wotherspoon decided to do other things: ‘I took a class at the University of Calgary in the summer, and I planned to do more, but I wanted to have the freedom to get out and do whatever I wanted, so I didn't. I did a lot of fly fishing from the spring to the fall, and took a fishing trip to Florida in the early summer that was ruined by a tropical storm. Right now I am getting ready to go to Norway. I will be there for two months living on an island in the sea fishing and trying to stay warm. I will also visit some friends and go on a ski trip in the mountains." In other words, Wotherspoon decided to take a real break from speed skating and do exactly what he wanted to do.

Besides the feeling there’s still more to come after an already impressive career so far, the fact that an Olympic gold medal is still missing, is an extra motivation for Wotherspoon to continue speed skating until 2010. Moreover, with the next Olympics being in Canada, there’s all the more reason for him not to retire from speed skating just yet. "My plan right now is Vancouver 2010. If things change they change, but that is my plan. It would be great to experience the Olympics in my own country. It’s definitely an extra motivation that I have not been able to win an Olympic gold medal yet. I've been to the Olympics three times and should have done better than I did. With the changes I am making right now and making sure I am prepared better for the next Games, I know I will be able to win in 2010. Also because I will have the biggest advantage, because it’s in my own country."

Despite the fact Wotherspoon decided to take a break from speed skating to do something completely different this season, it doesn’t imply he’s not interested in what is going on in the speed skating world. He shares his opinion on his most important international opponents: ‘Kyu Hyuk Lee and Pekka Koskela have become more consistent and the Dutch skaters seem to be less consistent, except maybe Wennemars. The old rivalry skaters like Shimizu and Bos haven't really done as well as they could.’ However, on top of all this, there seems to be a new generation of young and talented Canadian speed skaters knocking at the door: "There are some very talented younger members to the team, especially in the middle distance area. In sprint there are some very talented skaters who are not yet at the World Cup level, but you will see them in the future."

In short, there seems to be a lot to look forward to when it comes to Canadian speed skating and the Olympics in 2010. For Canada to become the number one nation in terms of medals won at the Olympics, a sport technical program which is called “Own The Podium” has been developed. The focus of this program is to provide extra resources and high performance programming to Canadian athletes, coaches and support personnel to help them achieve podium success in 2010. In addition to this program, the strong ‘older’ generation of Canadian speed skaters will all be back on the ice, whereas the strong ‘young’ generation will probably have become even stronger by then. Wotherspoon: "I think by 2010 we will be able to win a medal in every distance and win most of them. In some we will be able to win multiple medals."

All in all, this season has been very different from previous seasons for Jeremy Wotherspoon, but there still seems to be a lot to look forward to. He created time to do exactly what he wanted to do, without the worries and pressures of speed skating. This way, he was able to give both his body and mind a lot of rest to be totally prepared for the speed skating years that are still to come. And even though he totally enjoyed this season of freedom and fishing, he leaves no doubt as to whether or not he will be back next year: "Yes!"

Original article: http://www.speed-skating.net/eng/article-248.html