Wotherspoon leaves no doubt he is the 500 metre speed skating King

Wotherspoon clocked a two-race combined time of 1:09.96 including a track record 34.85 in the second race for his first career 500-metre gold at this Olympic style competition held annually except in Olympic years.

World record holder and four-time defending champion Hiroyasu Shimizu of Japan was second in 1:10.36. Shimizu has won the event five of the past six years. Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands, who swept the 500 races at the World Cup final last weekend, was third at 1:10.54.

Wotherspoon was paired with Wennemars in the first race and Shimizu in the second.

‘’It was good to have those pairs,’’ Wotherspoon said. ‘’Because of my back, I wasn’t physically able to do the ideal preparation. So having fast pairs I knew I had to follow my race plan to a tee. I had to think about what exactly what I wanted to feel like at each point of the race.

‘’Shimizu had a great start against me (9.47 seconds in the first 100 metres) but I was going well too (9.61). I got a lot of speed out of the first turn and I came into the backstretch further ahead of him than he thought. I just stayed strong the whole race.’’

Last Friday at the World Cup in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, Wotherspoon aggravated a back injury. All weekend the pain was so intense and his manoeuvrability almost nil that he was doubtful he could race at the worlds.

‘It’s still sore but I can skate,’’ said Wotherspoon. ‘’It’s been getting better and better and by yesterday I was skating relatively normal. Between races today it hurt again but when I focused for the second race I was able to put it out of my mind.’’

Wotherspoon has enjoyed a great season in the 500 losing only once in the event. He won both 500 events at the world sprint championships en route to the overall gold and also claimed a fifth World Cup 500 title in six years this winter.

Mike Ireland of Winnipeg was sixth in the first race Friday but didn’t finish the second and therefore receives no placing.

In the women’s 1,500 metres, Anni Friesinger of Germany was the winner in 1:57.43 with Maki Tabata of Japan second in 1:59.30 and Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., third in 1:59.31.

Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg, the World Cup season champion in the event at the world all around champion in February, has battled illness the last three days and was 10th.

Kristina Groves of Ottawa was 13th and Tara Risling of Medicine Hat, Alta., 18th.

In the men’s 5,000, Olympic champion Jochem Uytdehaage led the Dutch to a clean medal sweep clocking 6:25.29. Arne Dankers of Calgary was 20th.

Competition continues Saturday with the women’s 500 and 3,000 metre races and the men’s 1,500.