Hooked on speeeeeed

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

It may not be the way most people would choose to clear their mind, but in the midst of his year away from speedskating, Jeremy Wotherspoon found himself in a tiny Norwegian fishing boat chasing cod in the North Atlantic.

"I was getting bounced around in this boat with fishermen who had big knives in their hands filleting fish," smiled the avid fisherman who took all his orders from Captain Stenn on The Arvik.

"They don't get a lot of sleep, those fisherman, so there's a lot of potential for human error out there. Luckily, there were no accidents. It seemed a little risky, but I was just trying to hold my lunch down."

Proud to report his three-man crew topped out at 500 kilos of cod one day, he was quick to point out a colleague returned to land with 7,000 kilos.

"I didn't know if that was good, but he said, 'Trust me -- that's a good day,' " said Wotherspoon, an expert on good days as the winningest speedskater in men's World Cup history.

"I don't think I'm going to be a commercial cod fisherman. It was hard on me physically. I came back wanting to speedskate more than ever."

That much was evident in Salt Lake City last weekend, when he got his sea legs back and returned to the World Cup circuit in the most dramatic of fashion -- by winning two gold medals and smashing the world 500m record. What's more, he did it on the very same ice on which he fell in front of the world five years earlier.

"That was incredible," said Cindy Klassen, stunned by her teammate's storybook return.

"It shows what kind of athlete he is. Whenever he touches the ice, it seems like everybody stops to watch because his technique is so beautiful. When he's racing and he's on, it doesn't even look like he's trying because he's so smooth. This is just the beginning, so it's a little bit scary to see what's going to happen as the season goes on and over the next two years."

A scary thought, indeed, for a man who has now won 60 World Cup races, yet contemplated quitting the sport he's dominated everywhere but the Olympics.

"Initially, I took a year off because I wasn't sure what I was going to do," said the 31-year-old Red Deer native, who also spent plenty of time reading and thinking on a remote island.

"By mid-summer or fall, I knew I wanted to come back, so I did feel really fresh and knowing what I have to do to be the best I can. I definitely feel like I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think I could be better than I ever was. It would be frustrating to come back if I was going slower and not improving. I'm definitely really into it now and really enjoying it."

A 34.03-second time will do that for a guy whose previous best was 34.37s.

"I wasn't aiming to peak on the weekend," laughed Wotherspoon, suddenly confident he can post a sub-34s as early as this weekend at the Olympic Oval, which is hosting its 20th year of World Cup races.

"It's definitely the best race I've ever had, but when I look at the video, I see some things I can do better. I can go faster than that."

Few doubt it.

"I can't imagine the pressure he was under in Torino and after being on the team for so many years -- he knew he needed a mental break," said Catriona Le May Doan.

"Little did I know it'd be on a fishing boat in Norway, but I'm so happy to see him back and better than ever. I almost feel like after what he did last weekend, he could just retire and it would be the perfect ending."

Instead, Canadians should be glad he now has the drive and energy to fish around for one more shot at Olympic gold.


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