TURIN -- Mike Ireland beat Jeremy Wotherspoon. He beat post-concussion syndrome. But he couldn't beat a little fleck of dust on the ice.
The Winnipeg long-track speed skater finished seventh in the 500-metres yesterday - an amazing accomplishment considering the year away from skating following a bicycle crash into the side of a mountain in California in September 2004.
His finish was two positions higher than his high-profile Canadian teammate, Jeremy Wotherspoon, in a race won by American Joey Cheek.
But as much as he recognized his accomplishment in terms of where he was when he finally was able to return to the ice four months ago, the 32-year old, who spent the past year at his Calgary home battling nausea, dizziness and headaches, left the oval here last night thinking woulda, coulda, shoulda.
"After all I went through and the journey to get back after no training at all makes this really exciting for me," he said of his combined time of 70.88 for the two 500-metre races, which beat Wotherspoon's 71.05 in ninth.
"But if I had a better first heat, if I hadn't skated over something, I would have been in the mix.
"I might have won a medal. I might have finished fourth. But I would have been in the mix."
Ireland was 11th after the first race. He had the sixth best time in the second race.
"I must have skated over something," he said of the possibility of concrete dust, which often plagues Olympics in new buildings, that often weren't completed until just prior to the Games.
The result was losing sharpness on one skate.
"I went for it," he said.
Ireland was also affected by a lengthy delay to fix the ice when Beorn Nijenhuis of the Netherlands lost an edge and Kwon Sun Chun of Korea crashed into the padding in corner four in the same pairing.
Ireland was set to skate in the next pairing.
"Delays suck," he said. "I was ready to go. But that wasn't it. I skated over something."
Ireland said it didn't mean anything to him to finish ahead of Wotherspoon.
"I don't really focus on that," he said.
"What can I do?"
Canadians Vincent Labrie of Quebec City and Miron Brock of Cornwall, Ont., finished 29th and 30th respectively.