Legend of the fall

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

In some eyes, Jeremy Wotherspoon has 365 days before he redeems himself for Olympic mistakes.

The long track speed skater doesn't think of the Turin Olympics that way. In fact, the Red Deer native doesn't think of Salt Lake City and the unfortunate incident much at all.

"This is not really my big chance for vindication," Wotherspoon said. "There's a lot more that I train for and race at besides the Olympic games. Of course, it's a big goal and I want to do better at it than I have in the past. I use it as my motivation but I'm not anxiously awaiting to get it started."

However, Wotherspoon can make everyone forget about his fall three years ago. In speed skating -- like most amateur sports -- regular competitions mean little when compared to the Olympic Games.

In Salt Lake, Wotherspoon slipped off the line in his signature event, the 500 metres.

A few days later, Catriona Le May Doan went on to win her 500 to repeat as Olympic champion.

Le May Doan will be in Turin but won't be skating this time -- she'll be working as a CBC reporter -- so the spotlight will be on Wotherspoon. Le May Doan doesn't think that'll faze him.

"He skated many times there and it doesn't bother him,"she said.

"He skated at the world championships under great pressure. He's personally dealt with what happened but has already realized he has to deal with it publicly."

Le May Doan speaks from experience. The former Canadian speed queen fell in her first Olympics, then came back to win everyone's hearts with back-to-back wins.

And Wotherspoon has 54 World Cup wins already, so he knows what it's like to steal the spotlight.

"I don't really think about in a good or bad way," he said. "It's just part of sport."

Wotherspoon won't be alone in feeling the pressure. Le May Doan was always the face of the women's speed skating team, so now the eyes will shift to a quartet of medal hopefuls: Cindy Klassen, Clara Hughes, Kristina Groves and Shannon Rempel.

In her first Olympics, Klassen took bronze in the 3,000 at Salt Lake, despite being so nervous she couldn't eat or sleep for days prior to the events. She's much better prepared for a second turn.

"Every Olympics is probably different but I've learned a lot from the last one so I know what to look for," said the Winnipeg native, who should contend in the 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000 events.

Klassen isn't the only podium hope. Each of the four women has won a World Cup medal this season, including the youngster Rempel, who is heading into her first Olympics.

The 20-year-old Winnipegger surprised herself with two podium finishes this season.

"It was hard to say two years away from an Olympics what I would actually do there," Rempel said. "This season has changed all that."

On the men's side, the other serious medal contender is Mike Ireland, who is on a level in the 500 with Wotherspoon when he's healthy. But Ireland missed this entire season with a concussion and, according to sprint coach Neal Marshall, will try to make a comeback when the Olympic year push begins in May.

Unlike the past, Marshall said the strength of the team is depth instead of just in sprint races. And because of the depth, youngsters Justin Warsylewicz and Denny Morrison are skaters to watch.


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