Wotherspoon top Canadian at speed skating World Cup, Klassen returns to action Sunday

Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., posted Canada’s best result Friday at a long track speed skating World Cup competition finishing sixth in the men’s 1,000-metres while world champion Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg is scheduled to return to action Sunday for the first time after a serious injury this fall.

In the men’s 1,000, Takaharu Nakajima of Japan won the gold medal at the outdoor venue clocking 1:10.77 with Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands second in 1:10.87 and compatriot Beorn Nijenhuis third in 1:11.01. Wotherspoon was sixth in 1:11.55 and Mike Ireland of Winnipeg 18th.

“I didn’t have a great day,” said Wotherspoon. ”I never got the speed I wanted on the first lap and my start was slow as well. So overall I was lacking speed in every part of the race. But there’s no point thinking about it now. I have to prepare for the 500 (on Saturday).”

In the B group. Brock Miron of Cornwall, Ont., was third, Steven Elm of Red Deer, 12th and Jean-René Bélanger of Sherbrooke, Que., 15th.

In the women’s 1,000, Chris Witty led the U.S., to a 1-2 finish clocking 1:18.60 with Jennifer Rodriguez second in 1:18.79. Kerry Simpson of Melville, Sask., was 12th. In the B group race, Kim Weger of Regina, Krisy Myers of Calgary and Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer were eighth, 10th and 12th respectively.

The U.S., notched another win in the men’s 5,000 with world champion Chad Hedrick clocking 6:32.66 to edge two Dutchmen. Gianne Romme was second in 6:32.97 and Carl Verheijen third in 6:34.27.

In the B Group, Arne Dankers of Calgary was second in 6:43.63, the 10th best time of the day, and Elm was 11th.

Klassen got the green light last week that she could race at the final two World Cup events in Europe. She’ll race the 1,500 here on Sunday then compete next weekend in the Netherlands where she hopes to reach the standards to qualify for the world single distance championships next month.

Last year’s world all around champion and 2002 Olympic bronze medallist, was involved in a freak training accident in October at the Olympic Oval in Calgary that required extensive surgery on her right arm.

“It feels good to be here, at one point I thought I was through for the season,” said Klassen, 24, who resumed her on-ice training on January 1. “This will be a great place to get back into racing again. It’s very inspirational with the sun and mountains. I don’t feel I’m in top shape yet but my times were good enough to come here. We’ll see what happens. But Sunday’s race is really a preparation for next weekend.”

Klassen races with a splint on her arm but she says it doesn’t force her to make any adjustments to her technique. ‘’The arm hasn’t healed up completely but it doesn’t bother me when I race.’’

Competition continues Saturday.