Calgary welcomes the world at Essent ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships 2012

Calgary welcomes the world at Essent ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships 2012

Canadian team features reigning sprint champion Christine Nesbitt

CALGARY – Speed Skating Canada (SSC), the Organizing Committee Calgary (OCC) and the City of Calgary is set to welcome the world’s best as the Essent ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships 2012 comes to the Olympic Oval on Saturday, Jan. 28 and Sunday, Jan. 29. SSC and OCC will also celebrate one of Canada’s most decorated sprinters, Jeremy Wotherspoon, and assist in developing our future skaters through a club fundraising activity.

Returning to Canada for a fifth time, and fourth in Calgary, this year’s 41st World Sprint Championships features 65 athletes from 20 countries, including Canada’s Christine Nesbitt, defending world sprint champion, and her teammates Anastasia Bucsis of Calgary, Jamie Gregg of Edmonton, Kaylin Irvine of Calgary, Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., and Quebec City’s Muncef Ouardi.

At today’s news conference, four-time Olympic medalist Kristina Groves, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, SSC chief executive officer John-Paul Cody-Cox, OCC chair Alice Humeny and Tourism Calgary president Randy Williams kicked off the championships with an official “White Hat” ceremony. The ceremony is the city’s traditional way of welcoming the world and recognizing speed skating’s contribution to Calgary’s culture since the 1988 Olympic Games.

“Many great skaters have represented Canada at the world sprint championships since 1970,” said Cody-Cox. “From Sylvia Burke’s first medal in 1973 and her world championship title in 1977, to this year’s team, it is fitting that this year we recognize Jeremy Wotherspoon’s career.

“He is a four-time world sprint champion, including twice in Calgary (1999 and 2003), earned 67 World Cup victories including 12 world cup overall sprint titles, owns a world record that still stands today and an Olympic silver medal,” added Cody-Cox. “We look forward to seeing Calgary fans coming out to support Team Canada, acknowledge the countless hours of work by the host committee and volunteers, and honour Jeremy’s contribution to speed skating.”

The OCC also made available a grass roots fundraising program for this world championship, with clubs raising funds through their own ticket sales. “We reached out to the speed skating community through our Club Corner fundraising initiative,” said Humeny. “We’re pleased that clubs from Edmonton, Calgary and of course, Red Deer, Jeremy’s home club, responded with over 500 tickets sold.”

Since 2007 alone, OCC has presented three World Cups (March 2007, November 2007 and December 2009) and the 2011 Essent ISU World All Round Championships. The World Sprint Championships have been held in Canada four times: Sainte-Foy, Que., in 1987; and Calgary in 1994, 1999 and 2003.

The 2012 world championships start with the opening ceremonies at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the races at 12:05 p.m. The men and women will compete in the 500- and 1,000-metre distances each day. The tribute for Wotherspoon will take place after Saturday’s men’s 1,000 metres.

Further information and tickets for the championships are available at www.speedsk8.ca. Only premium tickets, providing access to the most preferred seating area, are being sold online. These tickets guarantee entry to the championship, in the event of a sell-out.