Wotherspoon on comeback trail

Danielle Wotherspoon poses after skating in the 500m at the Olympic Oval in Calgary during the...

Danielle Wotherspoon poses after skating in the 500m at the Olympic Oval in Calgary during the North American Championships. (Darren Makowichuk/QMI Agency)

SCOTT MITCHELL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:19 PM ET

CALGARY - Amongst the fresh faces and big dreams of the national development team, one veteran speedskater is fighting for another shot.

She doesn't really stand out until you see her last name.

At 31 years old, Danielle Wotherspoon is more than used to it. Shes always been Jeremys little sister.

The younger Wotherspoon has endured a trying few years, but theres a simple explanation for not hanging up the blades just yet.

How can you quit when you know you can go faster? she asked.

Her record-breaking brother, who has the most World Cup wins ever and an Olympic silver medal on his resume, is a big reason why.

Hes my brother and he can go that fast, theres no reason I cant, Wotherspoon said. Its not some superhero or some untouchable person its my brother. I grew up with him. He broke records and he did it in a way that was just being so technically good.

Wotherspoon made her World Cup debut in 2003, but an illness brought on by training at high altitudes knocked her to the sidelines for most of 2006 and 2007. She once again made the national team in 2008, putting together one of the best seasons of her career.

But since then, its been a combo platter of bad luck and a debilitating hamstring injury keeping her from making it back to the top national squad.

I had such a big block in my skating life that was a struggle, just trying to get where I want to be, Wotherspoon said of the illness that stole almost two years of her prime. Now that I have this chronic injury, its one year at a time. I mean, last year I broke all my personal bests and I was 30. I think some people think its old, but I mean I think (five-time Olympic gold medalist) Claudia Pechstein is like 40.

Its such a hard sport technically that I think a lot of people quit before theyre at their best just because of injury or not being able to keep training.

Its not all her fault. With Christine Nesbitt and Cindy Klassen holding down many of the World Cup spots, its a talented group that Wotherspoon has to wade through.

Its the hard work and determination that has impressed her coach Mike Crowe.

Everyones path and development is different, said Crowe, noting Wotherspoon was one of Canadas better 500-metre sprinters in 2010-11, but just a notch behind the top group. Shes never stopped learning, which is a good thing. Even in tough times shes been able to absorb and take those lessons and build on those lessons.

That shows some real strength of character and strength of commitment. A lot of times youll see some people quit before that happens.

When shes been healthy enough to race, Wotherspoon has been impressive. She qualified for the Salt Lake City World Cup event in January and placed fifth in the 500-metre and shell also head to another World Cup later this year, all the while eyeing up the World Single Distance Championships in the Netherlands at the end of March as a way to get back to the big stage.

A lot of people didnt think Id race at all this year, Wotherspoon said. I think I surprised a lot of people by getting so close to my personal bests in such a short amount of time.

Just like this weekend at the North American Speed Skating Championships at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, where she won the 500-metre races Friday and Saturday and is scheduled to compete Sunday in the womens 1000-metre race, Wotherspoon is taking it one race and one season at a time.

But mention Sochi 2014 and a grin crosses her face.

Its one year at a time, but its only two years away, so who knows?

On Twitter: @SUNMitchell


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