Wotherspoon & Rempel show strong early-season form at speed skating trials

World champion Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., and Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg were the victors in men’s and women’s 1,000-metre races Thursday to conclude the World Cup trials for the sprinters in long track speed skating.

In the men’s 1,000, Wotherspoon posted one of his fastest times after 600-metres and finished in one minute and 08.41 seconds. Sterling Sobczak of Winnipeg was second in 1:11.27, Brock Miron of Calgary third in 1:11.51 and Jean-René Bélanger of Sherbrooke, Que., fourth in 1:11.69.

"I’ve been trying some new things in training in order to have better season this year in the 1,000," said Wotherspoon, who won the World Cup and world championship title in the 500 last year and also lowered the world outdoor mark for the distance last winter. In addition he became the most successful male speed skater in World Cup history surpassing the 50 career win plateau.

"That’s one my big goals this year. I felt I showed some progress today but I still need to develop a better finish to the race."

Wotherspoon and James Monson of Winnipeg were pre-qualified for the World Cup in the 1,000 while Sobczak, Miron and Bélanger earned a spot with their performances.

"I made some mistakes but overall it was a good race," said Sobczak, who has battled a groin injury the past couple of seasons.

In the women’s 1,000, Rempel clocked 1:16.29 for the victory with Kim Weger of Regina second in 1:18.42, Krisy Myers of Lloydminster, Sask., third in 1:18.49, Tiffany Hughes of Kingston, Ont., fourth in 1:19.90 and Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer fifth in 1:20.18.

"I’m pretty excited about the upcoming season," said Rempel, 19, the world junior champion in 2003. "This season I’m able to focus on solely the sprint events. That should help my international results in the 1,000. My goal is to be in the top-10 in every race."

Rempel and Myers were pre-qualified while Weger, Hughes and Wotherspoon earned spots with Thursday’s performances.

The Canadian sprint team for the World Cups in Nagano, Japan December 4-5 and Harbin, China December 11-12 is comprised of Wotherspoon, Monson, Sobczak and Miron in both the 500 and 1,000 while Bélanger gets a spot in the 1,000 and Mark Nielsen of Calgary in the 500.

For the women, Rempel, Myers, Weger and Wotherspoon are qualified for the 500 and 1,000 while Hughes earned a spot in the 1,000 and Sarah Smith of Calgary a spot in the 500.

Other highlights of the sprint season are the Canadian championships December 27-29 in Calgary, the world sprint championships January 22-23 at Salt Lake City. There is also a World Cup stop January 14-15 in Calgary.