Golden start to World Cup speed skating season for Jeremy Wotherspooon

Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., and his rival Hiroyasu Shimizu of Japan both clocked 35.20 seconds and each received a gold medal in the men’s 500-metres at the opening World Cup event for the sprinters Saturday in long track speed skating.

Wotherspoon was paired with compatriot James Monson of Winnipeg who wound up 28th while Shimizu, the world record holder, was in the final pair of the day with Japan’s Joji Kato, who took fifth. It was Shimizu’s first World Cup 500 gold in four years.

"The whole race was solid except for the start," said Wotherspoon, now with 53 career World Cup wins which tops the men’s list in long track speed skating. "You’re always a bit more nervous at the start of the year, you go in not knowing what to expect and not use to the nerves and adrenaline."

Keiichiro Nagashima of Japan won the bronze in 35.25. Other Canadian results: Mark Nielsen of Calgary was 24th and Brock Miron of Calgary 29th.

In the men’s 1,000, Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands took the gold in 1:09.45 while Wotherspoon was fourth in 1:09.98. Miron was 28th, Jean-René Bélanger of Sherbrooke, Que., 31st, Monson 39th and Nielsen 40th.

"The major parts of the race were very good," Wotherspoon said about his 1,000. "I could have won a medal but I learned some things for the next race."

In the women’s 500, Manli Wang of China was first in 38.42 with Tomomi Okazaki of Japan second in 38.56 and her compatriot Shihomi Shinya third in 38.59.

Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg was fifth in 38.60 and posted the best start of the day at 10.6 seconds after the opening 100 metres. Rempel only raced two World Cup events last season and was relegated to the third pair of the day.

"Not bad," said Rempel, the world junior champion two seasons ago. "I skated well but not perfect. Still to do these kinds of times on this ice this early on is exciting. My time held up pretty good even though I went so early in the race so that’s a good sign."

Kim Weger of Regina was 24th, Krisy Myers of Lloydminster, Sask., 27th, Sarah Smith of Medicine Hat, Alta., 29th and Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer, 30th.

In the women’s 1,000, Italy’s Chiara Simionato was the winner with Rempel 12th, Weger 27th, Myers 28th, Wotherspoon 30th and Tiffany Hughes of Kingston, Ont., 31st.

Competition ends Sunday with another set of 500 and 1,000 metre races.