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    Friday, January 16, 1998

    Marshall speeds off to Nagano

    By TOM BRENNAN -- Calgary Sun
      It was the best news Neal Marshall's heard in weeks.
     "A big relief," admitted the Calgary-based speed skater.
     Marshall, a former world record holder in the 1,500 metres and second overall in the World Cup standings at that distance the past two seasons, learned yesterday that he will get to race in his specialty at Nagano after all.
     Slowed by athletic-induced asthma, an old problem, and a severe cold, the 28-year-old failed to qualify for one of the four spots in the 1,500 up for grabs on the Olympic team. He'd been granted a bye, but that was only in the 5,000.
     However, teammate Jeremy Wotherspoon, a gold medal threat in the 500 and 1,000, has decided to pull out of the 1,500 to concentrate on the other two, opening up a spot for Marshall, who competed in the 1992 and '94 Olympics.
     "I'd been hearing rumors that Jeremy was thinking about that, but I didn't want to make any assumptions," said Marshall. "I'm not sure he knew himself what he was going to do. I believe he just decided a couple of days ago.
     "I feel very relieved and excited now to know that I'm not just going, but going for the 1,500 metres, because that's where my specialty, heart and desire is, to do that race.
     "I'm super grateful to Jeremy, not only that he made this decision but that he did it so early, so that I can start to prepare mentally and physically."
     Marshall said more than the asthma, it was the cold that really sapped him at the Olympic Trials. He described it as extremely frustrating to know he had the ability to compete against and beat the best in the world, but was being foiled by a virus he had no control over.
     "The cold was more than half the problem because it compounded the effects of the asthma. But I feel like I'm on top of the asthma now.
     "I've already put in a lot of quality training, the last week went well, so I feel really optimistic about Nagano."
     Marshall's brother Kevin will also skate in the 1,500.