Speedskating star Jeremy Wotherspoon retires; Canadian won most World Cup races of any man

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Canadian speedskater Jeremy Wotherspoon retires

TORONTO — Canadian speedskater Jeremy Wotherspoon retired Saturday after a career in which he was one of the sport’s great sprinters but never reached the heights on the Olympic stage.

The 33-year-old long-track skater said in a statement he’ll become the sprint coach of a new speedskating academy in Germany. He had said in December this season would be his last.

“He really put speedskating on the map in Canada for sure, in terms of sprinting and the men’s team,” Canadian teammate Kristina Groves said during a conference call from Heerenveen, Netherlands.

Wotherspoon holds the 500-meter world record and has won 67 World Cup races, more than any other male skater. An Olympic gold medal, however, eluded him.

He won a silver medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics but struggled at the next three games. Wotherspoon was a heavy favorite in the 500 at Salt Lake City but stumbled at the start. He underperformed in Turin in 2006 and was ninth last month in Vancouver.

“We’re sad to see him go,” Groves said. “I know he probably didn’t finish on the note that he was hoping to, but it doesn’t erase in any way the wonderful and amazing career that he’s had.”

His final race was an 11th-place finish at last week’s 500 in Erfurt, Germany. He had surgery this week following a leg infection and was unable to close his career by competing in the speedskating hotbed of the Netherlands.

“He seems very at ease with this being the outcome,” high performance director Brian Rahill said. “I did see him briefly yesterday and he had his usual good humor at work amongst all of us. He certainly was not feeling down about this being the way the curtain fell.”

Wotherspoon did not participate in a conference call with other Canadian skaters on Saturday. The Canadian speedskating federation said he’ll most likely hold a news conference next week when he returns to Canada.

Wotherspoon’s resume also includes three 500-meter world titles, another in the 1,000 and four sprint world championships.

His technique was the envy of coaches around the world. His graceful mechanics and commanding stride created a powerful combination.

Canadian teammate Brittany Schussler said Wotherspoon had a major influence on the speedskating community.

“His technique is flawless and he’s been so consistent,” she said. “He’s got a great personality, everyone likes him off the ice. He’s just drawn so many more fans to the sport and brought so many new elements to the way people skate. It’s been amazing to have him around. This sport is going to miss him, that’s for sure.”

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