Wotherspoon opens World Cup season with victory while Le May Doan gets silver

Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., won the gold medal while world and Olympic champion Catriona Le May Doan of Saskatoon took silver in their respective 500-metre races Saturday to open the World Cup long track speed skating season for the sprinters.

In the men’s 500, Wotherspoon, the defending overall World Cup champion, clocked 35.19 seconds for his 40th career World Cup medal. His big rival Hiroyasu Shimizu of Japan was second in 35.53 and Joji Kato of Japan was third in 35.61.

"The whole 500 was very solid, no mistakes," said Wotherspoon, 26. "But I still feel physically I’m not totally on my game right now because it is early in the season. I’m trying some new skates this year which, are very different from I’ve worn in the past. It’s working out well so far."

Mike Ireland of Winnipeg was fifth in 35.73, James Monson of Winnipeg 15th, Sterling Sobczak of Winnipeg 19th and Éric Brisson of Ste-Foy, Que., 24th.

In the women’s 500, Shihomi Shinya of Japan was a surprise winner in 38.60. Le May Doan, who has been suffering from a sore back for the past month, was a mere 1/100ths behind in 38.61 in her first full out race in the 500 in over a month. Manli Wang of China was third in 38.74.

"The back felt pretty good," said Le May Doan, who praised the work of Canadian team physiotherapist Lorrie Maffey to help her get ready for the race. "But I had my slowest opening 100-metres in five years and that’s what cost me the gold. So I’m a bit mad at that. There’s lots and lots of room to get better. It was nice to get that first race out of the way."

Krisy Myers of Calgary was 21st and Kim Weger of Regina, who was paired with Shinya, 25th.

In the men’s 1,000 won by Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands, Wotherspoon was fourth, Kevin Marshall of Coquitlam, B.C., 13th, Jason Parker of Yorkton, Sask., 16th, Sobczak 22nd while Ireland did not finish.

In the women’s 1,000 won by German star Monique Garbrecht-Enfeldt by almost a full second, Le May Doan was sixth, Weger 18th and Myers 22nd.

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