Olympic Oval hosts the World Cup

By Andrea Bundon

It was the final Essent ISU World Cup Speed Skating event of the year, and the Canadian team was in excellent form on the fastest ice in the world.

From March 2-4, the Olympic Oval played host to over 180 long track speed skaters from over 20 countries. Considering the technicians at the Oval had 14 years to
perfect their formula for world class ice, it’s not surprising six world records were broken and countless athletes posted personal bests. And with the Salt Lake City games less than 12 months away, for many skaters this is the start of their Olympic peak.

Krisy Myers predicts the Canadian team will be very strong at the Olympics and she’s probably right. On Fri., March 2, Jeremy Wotherspoon took first place in the men’s 1000m race and Catriona Le May Doan tied American Chris Witty for the gold with a time of 1:15.01 on the women’s side. LeMay Doan secured yet another gold medal in the first of the women’s 500m races while Canada’s Cindy Klassen was fourth in the women’s 3000m race.

On Saturday, the good results continued to pour in. Mike Ireland broke the world record held by teammate Wotherspoon in the men’s 1000m by 0.01s and the skaters took gold and silver in the event. Wotherspoon’s silver medal moved him into first place for points accumulated in the men’s 1000m event over the course of the season, and he was awarded the overall trophy along with a cheque for $14,000 US.

On Sunday, Le May Doan proved her gold medal in Friday’s 500m race was no fluke as she won the second 500m race of the weekend with a time just .02 off her world record. Le May Doan said she is happy with her time and is content to leave breaking her own record for another time.

"I have to leave something for next year," she said.

Cindy Klassen astounded everyone on Sunday with her incredible performance in the women’s 1500m race. Klassen not only broke the Canadian record and secured a fourth place finish, but she also cut 2.71s off her personal best time finishing in 1:56.01.

This week the team takes off to Salt Lake City for the Single Distance World Championships, an event considered by many to be a preview of the 2002 Olympics. Le May Doan is looking forward to the event.

"[It’s] a stepping stone for next year," she said.

What makes the Canadian team so strong? According to the athletes, their success is due in part to the incredible training environment at the Oval. In the case of Ireland and Wotherspoon, having your closest competitor practice with you is an incredible advantage.

"What we’re both helping each other to do [is] to get faster," said Wotherspoon.

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