Spoon withers in final 500

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency


Canadian speed skating legend Jeremy Wotherspoon failed to win a medal in the men's 500-metre race at the Vancouver Olympics Monday, Feb. 15, 2010. (DANIEL MALLARD/QMI AGENCY)

RICHMOND, B.C. — They came to see if the Spoon could shine one last time.

From as far away as the Netherlands, where speed skating rules and where Canadian Jeremy Wotherspoon is revered as one of the all-time greats, they came to cheer on the tragic hero.

Even rival skater said they’d love to see the Red Deer Rocket blast to the podium, for old time’s sake.

The 33-year-old Wotherspoon, still the world record holder in this event and the all-time World Cup victories leader, came into this, his final Olympic-500 metres, with the world on his side — and a massive monkey on his back.

Ever since he won a silver medal in Nagano 12 years ago, he’s been pegged to win Olympic gold.

Yet fate, bad karma, whatever you want to call it, has always conspired against him — with some help from Wotherspoon himself.

There was The Fall at Salt Lake City.

The Futility in Turin.

Monday night, the skating gods found a new way to throw a wrench into the works. This time it was two faulty ice-resurfacing machines (we kid you not) making a mess of the Richmond Oval, minutes before Wotherspoon’s first of two races.

The result, a one-hour delay that left a man facing all kinds of demons the one thing he didn’t need: More time to think.

He somehow shook that off, posting an initial time good enough for fifth spot, the podium within reach.

But even with 6,601 screaming fans, Wotherspoon couldn’t duplicate it, and fell to ninth place.

“When I was in fifth I was thinking I’m definitely in there,” Wotherspoon said. “I was a bit behind, but I’ve been behind before.”

Obviously perplexed by his result, Wotherspoon took his time leaving the oval, sitting alone for several minutes after the last competitors were through.

“I felt kind of emotional after the race,” he explained. “I wanted to reflect on it a bit, not just shoot out of there and go home. I wanted to make sure I made the most of my moment there.”

Since he was coming back from a shattered left arm that wiped out his 2008-09 season (that bad karma, again), perhaps the result was to be expected.

“The most disappointing thing is wondering if I have it in me, anymore. I don’t even mean mentally. More physically. That was the first thing that popped into my mind.”

Wotherspoon will wrap up his career with the 1,000 metres Wednesday.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

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