This report was voiced by Parke Brewer
When it comes to achievements in men's speed skating, Canadian Jeremy Wotherspoon is right up there with the best. But at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, this world record holder is out to check one last item off his to-do list - winning a gold medal. Jeremy Wotherspoon might be the best speed skater in the world in the 500 and 1,000 meter events. The 25-year-old Canadian athlete currently holds the world record in the 1,000 meters, and he has previously held the 500 meter mark. Wotherspoon has won three straight World Cup crowns in both of those events and back-to-back World Sprint titles. He's fresh off winning his latest overall World Sprint Championship January 20 in Norway.
But the one glaring missing feat is that prized gold medal. Wotherspoon came close, leaving Nagano in 1998 with a silver, but now he's anxious to pursue the gold.
"No matter what level you are, I'm sure everyone would love to win a gold medal. That's a huge motivating factor. I just want to put everything I can into this event," Mr. Wotherspoon said.
The odds are with Jeremy Wotherspoon to fulfill his goal. The speed skating events will be held at the Utah Olympic Oval, the very same building in which he set his 1,000 meters world record during the World Championships last March.
But speed skating was not always the first thing on Jeremy's mind. As a boy growing up in Red Deer, Alberta, about 150 kilometers north of Calgary, Wotherspoon was an ice hockey player. It was not until he was eight years old that he decided to lace up some skates for a different sport.
"I was down at this 400-meter oval just skating around and there was this old Dutch guy. He saw me there and he said I should try speed skating. So I did. And it turned out to be a pretty good decision," he said.
Jeremy Wotherspoon still was not ready to take speed skating too seriously. It was not until a few years later that the idea of competing internationally entered his head.
"When I was young I was just trying to have fun. I just wanted to hang out with friends and skate. Later on when I was about 11-years-old, that's when the Olympics were in Calgary in 1988, and I got to go watch one of the speed skating events there. It was a pretty big motivating factor, seeing the best guys in the world close up. I kind of thought, that would probably be pretty fun to do," he explained.
Even then, Wotherspoon waited until his high school graduation to devote his life to the sport. He entered the University of Calgary where he trained full-time. After an impressive showing at the Junior World Championships, Jeremy was allowed to train with the Canadian national sprint team.
He did not always enjoy all of the hard training, but the challenge kept him going.
"The thing I like most about it is having very difficult challenges that are not only not easy to achieve but not easy to work towards achieving, because every day of hard training is a challenge in itself. I think it's doing hard training sessions and feeling good about myself for doing things that are not necessarily fun to do but then getting to competitions and having another challenge and seeing what I can get out of myself and hopefully fulfilling my goals," he said.
As competitive as Jeremy is, he still manages to put his performances behind him away from the ice rink. He spends much of his free time fly-fishing with fellow speed skaters, including American rival Casey FitzRandolf. FitzRandolf will be one of the main competitors for gold medals in Salt Lake City. Wotherspoon has said this is no big deal. "I'm pretty friendly with everyone else on the circuit. It's a pretty friendly sport. There's a definite difference between competition and friendship. No one really takes anything personal. If someone beats you, well, they had a good race. They're not just trying to beat you, they're trying to beat everybody," he said.
If Canadian Jeremy Wotherspoon wins a speed skating gold medal in Salt Lake City, he will have a place in Olympics history forever. He knows that while world records can always be broken by the next new skating sensation, a gold medal is something that can never be taken away.