Rempel struggling to regain form

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RICHMOND, B.C. -- Four years ago, Shannon Rempel's future seemed brighter than the TV lights in Turin.

Just 21 and already in her first Olympics, the Winnipeg speed skater was even called the next great Canadian sprinter, by some.

By the 2008-09 World Cup season she'd risen to the No. 3 ranking in the 1,000 metres, No. 5 in the 1,500.

Vancouver 2010, it seemed, would be her coming-out party. Rempel, though, doesn't feel like much of a host, not after the season she's having.

"It's definitely been a challenging year," she told the Sun. "No one really knows (why). I don't know if I just didn't respond to training well. But it's kind of a sh--- year for it to happen."

Rempel sunk so low she was relegated to the B-Division on the World Cup circuit, a dramatic fall for someone who a year ago was hoping for a medal here. It's to the point where she's just tired of disappointing herself.

"Technically, I feel fine," she said. "But when I finish a race and look up at the time I'm generally amazed at how slow it is.

"I guess I was hoping last year that I would have been on the podium. Now I'm hoping to just race. I can't have any expectations anymore."

BACK FOR ONE MORE: Turin was supposed to be Winnipegger Mike Ireland's swan song. With three Olympics under his belt, he was getting ready to start a family and put skating on the back burner.

Well, he and his wife recently got the family thing down pat -- but it seems he can't shake the skating bug.

So the 36-year-old, who was battling concussion symptoms going into Turin, is back for Winter Games No. 4. -- and shooting for his best finish, yet.

"I went into the last Olympics not prepared at all," Ireland said. "This one, I've trained a lot harder. I'm older, which might play against me.

"The field's pretty deep, but nobody's really standing out. Any of 10 different guys could win. It is pretty wide open if you bring your game."

A 500-metre specialist who won the world sprint title in 2001, Ireland finished seventh in the last two Games.

He's looking forward to experiencing the home-ice advantage the Americans got from cheering crowds at Salt Lake City in '02.

"I remember in Salt Lake, it was 'USA' the whole time," Ireland said. "It was starting to get on my nerves. Hopefully 'Canada' will get on the other team's nerves and give us a little bit of an edge."

HEIR APPARENT? It's way too soon to call Kyle Parrott the next Jeremy Wotherspoon, or even the next Mike Ireland.

But the 24-year-old from Minnedosa, Man., has shown serious promise in the shorter distances, finishing ninth in the 1,000 at last year's world championship.

His expectation in Vancouver?

"It's really tough to say," Parrott said. "Some people under the pressure they'll perform really well. Some people perform worse because of the pressure. Some people won't change at all. I don't even know what to expect.

"Even training days are bad and good days. Hopefully I roll the dice and it's a good day."

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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