February 14, 2006
Spoon of sorrow
'I didn't trust myself,' says Wotherspoon
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

TURIN -- Jeremy Wotherspoon gagged again.

This time the speed skater didn't face-plant off the start line like he did in the 500 metres four years ago or slip like he did in the 1,000m in Salt Lake 2002.

In a way this was worse. He allowed himself to be beaten before he started. He allowed the Olympics to eat him alive, to swallow him whole.

Wotherspoon not only wasn't able to manufacture a medal, he didn't even get a diploma yesterday in the men's 500.

No gold. No silver. No bronze. He didn't even get a piece of paper. The top eight receive Olympic diplomas. The native of Red Deer finished ninth!

If Jenn Heil became the poster girl for how to go for the gold, Wotherspoon remained the poster boy for the Canadian condition of not being able to convert World Cup and world championship success into Olympic moments and medals.

This guy is the holder of the record for most World Cup titles for men in his sport, the former world-record holder for the 500m and the overall World Cup champion in the event last year - a title he has held since 2002.

He's a famed name in the sport as "The Spoon," but when it comes to the Olympics he's a spoon full of Castor oil.

Coach Sean Ireland admits that what keeps happening to Wotherspoon - who won a surprise silver in Nagano 1998, before he became a star in speed skating - will affect his legacy.

"Not within the sport," he said. "But to Canadian eyes outside the sport and in the media it probably will."

HORROR STORY

Ireland said he thought Wotherspoon was ready to turn the Salt Lake 2002 horror story into Turin 2006 glory.

"He was a medal favourite coming in here. But it was a little bit mental and a little bit execution," he said.

Wotherspoon wasn't denying the obvious.

"It was mostly a mental thing," he said after finishing fifth in the first race and falling to ninth after the second yesterday. "I felt like I let myself down. I was trying too hard."

Does he make the Olympics into a monster he can't control? "I don't know," he said.

This wasn't Salt Lake.

"I was disappointed in a different way (yesterday). In the first race I really felt like I was flailing and not really solid or confident. I didn't feel like I had the same control. I felt like I let myself down. I really had a hard time forgetting it and getting on to the next one.

"I was too mad at myself for too long to be really ready for the second race and to concentrate on getting a medal. I wasn't ready to focus to be able to be my best. It was hard at the time. I let myself be mad at myself probably too long. The main reason was that I was mad.

MENTAL MESS

"I know how to skate the 500m and I didn't. I know both times I didn't do it. I didn't trust myself."

Ireland said he could see the mental mess his skater was in-between races.

"I talked to him. I could see the body language. It was hard to get him to regroup."

Wotherspoon admitted he thought about the face-plant off the start line in Salt Lake.

"For four years I've used it as a cue. I thought about the last Olympics," he said of trying to use failure to breed success.

It didn't work.

You can't help but wonder if he didn't attack the first corner like he wanted to because of his own history and the vision of a couple falls two races before he skated.

Beorn Nijenhuis of the Netherlands lost an edge and broke stride like a harness horse to watch his Olympics go up in smoke while Kwon Sun Chun of Korea crashed into the padding in Turn 4 in the same pairing.

Wotherspoon went incident-free in terms of staying on his skates, but didn't face the first turn with confidence.

"I was not as stable as in the past mentally for that part of the race," he said.

Canada has brought enough psychologists here to fill a ward at a mental institute and it may take all of them to get Wotherspoon together again for the 1,000m, which may be his last chance to not totally go down as one of the great Olympic choke artists in history.

"I don't see it as my last chance," said the 29-year-old, who would like to be around for Vancouver 2010.

"I just feel I'd like to have a good race."







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Men's 500m
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Men's 1,000m
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Men's 1,500m
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Men's 5,000m
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Men's 10,000m
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Men's Team Pursuit
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Women's 500m
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Women's 1,000m
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Women's 1,500m
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Women's 3,000m
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Women's 5,000m
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Women's Team Pursuit
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