TURIN, Italy --Though he stayed on his feet, Jeremy Wotherspoon again stumbled in the men's 500-metres long track speed skate.
The 29-year-old from Red Deer, Alta., finished ninth with a combined time of 71.05 seconds in the two-round competition at the Oval Lingotto. His first round of 35.37 left him more than half a second back of eventual gold medallist Joey Cheek of the U.S. and his second 500 was slower (35.68).
Brockville's Michael Ireland moved up into seventh with a strong second skate of 35.29 seconds after finishing the first skate ranked 11th (35.59).
Cheek took top spot with a combined time of 69.76, Russia's Dmitry Dorofeyev (70.41) won silver while Korea's Kang Seok Lee (70.43) grabbed the bronze.
For Wotherspoon, it had been a long wait to redeem his disastrous 500 metres in 2002 at the Olympics in Salt Lake City where, as a strong possibility for a gold medal, he tripped right at the start of his first race and did not finish.
And though he claimed there were no demons from that race, his time in the first round today left him psychologically wounded. Disappointed at not having a realistic shot at gold, Wotherspoon was unable to gear himself up for a medal of any colour.
"In that first race I really felt like I let myself down," Wotherspoon told Sun Media's Terry Jones. "I really had a hard time forgetting it and getting on to the next race.
"I was too mad at myself for too long to be really ready for the second race and concentrate on getting a medal."
Wotherspoon entered the Games ranked fourth in the World Cup standings for the 500 metres, a distance in which he was the overall World Cup champion the past four seasons. He also holds the world record for the most career World Cup titles by a man. He won a silver medal in the 500 at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.
Wotherspoon has one race to go in these Olympics, the 1,000 metres on Saturday.
For Ireland, the result was a strong one after missing most of last season with a serious concussion stemming from a mountain bike crash in September 2004.
Two other Canadians were also entered. Vincent Labrie, who turns 23 on Feb. 14 and lives in St. Romuald, Que. was 27th (72.43), while Brockville's Brock Miron, 25, was right behind in 28th (72.54).