Canada’s Jeremy Wotherspoon leads after first day at world sprints

HEERENVEEN, The Netherlands – Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., was first in the 500-metre and third in the 1,000 on Saturday to stand first overall at the halfway point at the world sprint championships in long track speed skating.

In the men’s 500, Wotherspoon clocked a track record 34.81 seconds for first place with Kyou-Hyuk Lee of South Korea second at 34.99 and his compatriot Kang-Seok Lee third at 35.13. Vincent Labrie of St-Romuald, Que., was 16th and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., 19th.

In the 1,000, Jan Bos of the Netherlands was the victor in 1:09.13 with fellow Dutchman Simon Kuipers second in 1:09.46 and Wotherspoon third at 1:09.47. Morrison was fourth in 1:09.72 and Labrie 23rd.

Overall after two of four races, Wotherspoon leads with 69.545 points, Bos is second at 69.805 and Kyou-Hyuk Lee, the defending champion, third at 69.910. Morrison is 10th and Labrie 18th. Another set of 500 and 1,000 –metre races go Sunday.

‘’The first 200-metres could have been better in the 500,’’ said Wotherspoon, a four-time world sprint champion. ‘’The ice is quite different here than in Calgary and it was humid in the building as well. Still I was happy with both races because I came out with the lead for the second day. It sets me up well for tomorrow (Sunday) and I know I can do better in both races.’’

Wotherspoon sat out all of last season to contemplate his speed skating future and had not raced internationally this season since the second World Cup stop in Calgary in mid-November.

‘’I always have a little nervous energy before a race,’’ said Wotherspoon. ‘’I use that as a reminder on what to focus on in the race. And I try to capitalize on that extra energy. I intend to follow the same plan tomorrow and take each race individually.’’

In women’s competition, German skaters stand 1-2 after the opening two races. Jenny Wolf, the 500 winner and sixth in the 1,000 leads with 76.170 points and defending champion Anni Friesinger, the 1,000 winner and seventh in the 500, is second at 76.490. Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands is third at 77.115.

Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg was seventh in the 1,000 and 10th in the 500 to stand eighth overall. Kerry Simpson of Melville, Sask., is 23rd overall, Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer 24th and Tamara Oudenaarden of Edmonton is 27th.

Competition ends Sunday.