Thanks to his good results at the Canadian Single Distances Championships in Richmond last month, including a gold medal in the 500m, Jamie Gregg qualified for the World Sprint Championships that took place in Moscow last weekend. With renowned Canadian sprinters such as Jeremy Wotherspoon and Mike Ireland being absent because of injuries, Gregg was facing the tough challenge of “filling their skates” at what was his debut at World Sprints. Gregg reflects on the impact of the injuries of the before-mentioned skaters and looks back on last weekend’s races.
By Jolanda Abbes
In terms of sprints, this pre-Olympic season has not started out too great for the Canadian long track team. Of course, the Canadian women dominated in the 1000m (and 1500m), but the men encountered some serious setbacks. At the first World Cup of the season, in Berlin, Jeremy Wotherspoon and Mike Ireland fell and injured their left arms in such a way that they were forced to return home. Both skaters are still working on their recovery and it is uncertain if they will be able to return to international competition before the end of the season. However, because both skaters are absent for the time being, a new generation of Canadian sprinters is given the opportunity to present themselves on a bigger stage than just the national competitions and the World Cups.
Among these skaters is sprinter Jamie Gregg, who made his debut at the World Sprint Championships in Moscow last weekend. Gregg looks back on that first unfortunate Fall World Cup and reflects on how these falls affected him: “In Berlin my only two teammates there were Mike and Jeremy, so when they both went down, it kind of put a sombre mood to the whole weekend. Also, we had planned to go back to Calgary after that World Cup in order to get a solid three weeks of training in before the two Sprint World Cups in Asia. With two of my teammates injured, the training that I got in Calgary was perhaps not as beneficial as it could have been. Personally, the injuries did not really affect my mindset towards the races though, as I was just trying to improve my world ranking and keep improving my skating.” A week after the unfortunate World Cup in Berlin, the Canadian sprint team encountered another setback at the World Cup in Heerenveen, when Vincent Labrie toed into the ice at the start of his second 500m and consequently fell over, cutting his right leg with the blade of his skate. As a result, he was unable to skate for quite some time as well.
With several skaters being sidelined because of injuries, there were spots to be earned on the team for the World Sprint Championships at the Canadian Single Distances Championships in Richmond last month, and Gregg managed some good results. In 2010, the Richmond Oval will be the venue of the Olympic long track speed skating events and these championships were the first official competition at this new oval. During those final days of 2008, Gregg raced to a gold medal in the 500m (after finishing first and 5th) and a 4th place in the 1000m, and these results proved to be good enough to earn him a spot on the team that competed at the World Sprint Championships last weekend. For Gregg, it was the first time to compete at World Sprints and he was impressed with what he saw: “I look back on World Sprints and realize just how much fun it was. The atmosphere in the Moscow Oval was incredible and it was a really great time skating in front of all the enthusiastic fans. I expected World Championships to be a little more intense and high profile than normal World Cups, but I think that I was surprised at how much more so it actually was.”
In terms of results, Gregg can also look back on a good weekend. He raced to one top 10 finish and finished 13th in the overall classifications. Gregg reflects: “At the start of the season my goal was to finish in the top 15 at World Sprints and so I did achieve my goal. I would have liked to skate better 1000m's though and I think that there is a lot of time I can make up in that race.” In the first 1000m, Gregg finished 18th in 1.10.89, for his second 1000m he needed 1:11.30 (21st). However, Gregg was a lot more satisfied with his 500m’s in Moscow. In the first 500m, on Saturday, he raced to a time of 35.67 (11th), and his 500m the next day was even better: 35.40, good for a 9th place. “My best race at World Sprints was my second 500m. I had a really good opener and then coming into the back stretch behind Kyle Parrott, I had the rhythm that I wanted and a nice draft too. I had been working on my corners leading up to the event and I really nailed the entry and position of my entire second inner corner. This allowed me to build speed out of the corner and finish the race with a good time.”
With a 13th place overall at the World Sprint Championships, Gregg can look back on a successfull debut, but not just Gregg raced to some good results in Moscow; the entire Canadian men’s sprint team managed a solid performance, despite the absence of Wothersoon, Ireland and Labrie. Denny Morrison finished 5th overall, which was an improvement of his 7th place in 2008 as well as in 2007, and Kyle Parrott, who also made his debut at World Sprints, finished 14th.
After his good results in Moscow, Gregg is now looking forward to whatever the rest of the season will bring. Depending on his results over the next couple of weeks at the World Cups, Gregg hopes to be able to qualify for the World Cup Final in Salt Lake City and the World Single Distances Championships in Richmond, that will both take place in March: “This weekend I skate just the 500m in Kolomna and the following weekend I will skate the 500m and 1000m in Erfurt. I hope to continue to improve my racing over these next few weeks and hopefully that will qualify me for the World Cup Final in Salt Lake City and maybe the World Single Distances Championships in Richmond. Right now I am just focusing on my skating and hopefully that will allow me to skate in front of some hometown fans in Richmond in March.”
Photo credits: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen.
Photo credits: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen.