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    Wednesday, February 11, 1998

    Silver lining for Wotherspoon

    By TERRY JONES -- At The Olympics

      It was hours after he'd won the silver medal and it hung around his neck as if he'd been wearing it for years.
     Jeremy Wotherspoon was at Canada House now, shaking a bottle of champagne and spraying it all over the Canadian crowd.
      They presented him with a cake and he cut it and served the first two pieces to his mom Sharon and his dad Bill.
     He was oblivious to the fact famous hockey people like Bobby Clarke and Bob Gainey were in the room and unaware of the identity of half the Canadians, some of whom were just fans who came to get their fuzzy feeling up close and personal.
     "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,'' the 21-year-old speed skater from Red Deer, Alta., said of his silver in the 500 metres.
     "It wasn't that long ago it was just a dream to make it to the Olympics. And now I have this medal around my neck.''
     He was seventh after the first round but let it all hang out to beat everybody except Japan's Hiroyasu Shimizu.
     "That was the skate of his life,'' his mom was saying a few minutes earlier as she waited for her son to arrive so she could share the moment.
     His parents could see this was a different kid than he had been the day before in the opening round.
     "We could see he'd got the Olympic nervousness out of his system the way he looked and acted today,'' his dad said.
     "He looked like he was having fun today,'' his mom said.
     He nailed it. A time of 35.80. And then the waiting began.
     "Then we knew that, holy smokes, he was going to have a medal. Then we knew which color it was going to be,'' said his dad of waiting and watching the skaters who were left to race.
     It was weird that way. Most of them were Canadians. You were cheering for your son but you couldn't cheer against them.
     Bill wore a Red Deer Royals jacket with a red Maple Leaf on the arms and on the back. The Red Deer Royals are a band which is taking a tour to Australia. They gave him the jacket. His mom had a knitted sweater with a big red Maple Leaf in front.
     They couldn't cheer against Kevin Overland of Kitchener, who ended up with the bronze, or Sylvain Bouchard or Patrick Bouchard who finished fourth and fifth. These guys are a team. And you could see that when they arrived.
     Normally, only medal winners are brought to Canada House for the special ceremony. But this was an exception because it was an exceptional circumstance. Finishing 2-3-4-5 is an amazing accomplishment.
     Wotherspoon had the silver medal around his neck but he wanted the other three to know what they meant to him.
     "Being on such a strong team breeds faster skating,'' he told the crowd. "I wouldn't be here without them.''
     Wotherspoon stepped off the stage and looked around the room.
     "This is the most fun part,'' he said.
     He looked so calm, cool and collected, but he said that he felt as if he had bees in his body.
     "I'm ecstatic -- I may not show it. But I just won an Olympic silver medal. There aren't much bigger things in sport than winning an Olympic medal.''
     Wotherspoon said he was glad the Japanese skater had such an awesome day. He suggested it made his silver sterling.
     "I'm glad he skated well. He proved that he is by far the strongest guy. Now I know that even if I hadn't slipped on the first day, it wouldn't have made a difference, I wouldn't have beat him.''
     Gaetan Boucher, the man who won three medals for Canada at the Sarajevo Olympics, including two golds, spent much of the evening studying the skater.
     "He's only 21 years old,'' he said. "He can go for two more Olympics.''
     Wotherspoon isn't finished with these Olympics yet. He's the world-record holder for the 1,000. That's up next.
     "It'll be about three days before we see him in here again,'' Boucher said.