Wotherspoon breaks Canadian record in World Cup speed skating win

Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., broke his Canadian record in the men’s 500-metre and Mike Ireland of Winnipeg added a bronze in the 1,000 metres at the long track speed skating World Cup season opener for the sprinters.

Wotherspoon, who lost only one 500 race last year, clocked 34.37 seconds for the win lowering his previous Canadian mark of 34.41 set last season in Salt Lake City. Gerard Van Velde of the Netherlands was second in 34.59 and Dmitry Lobkov of Russia third in 34.63.

"It was a solid race from start to finish," said Wotherspoon, who came within 0.05 seconds of the world record. "There were some areas I would have liked to have done better but you can’t ask for much more at the start of the season. We’re not in peak condition yet."

Wotherspoon now has 46 career World Cup wins, only two behind Uwe Jens May of Germany who is the all time men’s leader.

Ireland was fifth in 34.92 but saved his best for later in the day. James Monson of Winnipeg was 19th, Mark Nielsen of Calgary 28th and Brock Miron of Cornwall, Ont., 31st.

In the men’s 1,000, Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands took the gold in 1:07.78 with his compatriot Beorn Nijenhuis second in 1:08.40 while Ireland snared the bronze in 1:08.56. Ireland, the world sprint champion in 2001, appears back in form after an injury plagued 2002-2003 season.

"I was surprised," said Ireland. "My practice races hadn’t gone all that well. Then my start was pretty flat but I kept pushing and that’s what really helped me. It’s an encouraging way to start the season."

Wotherspoon was 11th, Monson 23rd, Jason Parker of Yorkton, Sask., 30th, and Miron 35th.

In women’s competition, world junior champion Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg opened with a shaky 500 placing 18th but was impressive in the 1,000 clocking 10th in 1:17.32. After the 500 race, Rempel admitted she was happy to get that first race under her belt.

"I knew I could do better after the 500" said Rempel, who’ll defend her world junior crown in February.

Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., won the women’s 1,000 decisively in 1:14.50 and Japan’s Shihomi Shinya won the 500.

Other Canadian women’s results: Krisy Myers of Lloydminster, Sask., was 25th in the 500 and 17th in the 1,000; Kim Weger of Regina, 26th and 29th, Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., 33rd in both races, Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg 31st in the 1,000 and Sarah Smith of Red Deer, Alta., 36th in the 500.

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