CALGARY -- Jamie Gregg went blade-to-blade with the reigning world and Olympic champion at the opening World Cup speedskating event of the season. And while the Edmonton skater earned bronze in the men's 500 metres, he was agonizingly close to standing higher on the podium.
Gregg was paired with Tae-Bum Mo of South Korea, this year's world champion in the distance. The two men played cat-and-mouse to start the race. Mo's opening strides were quicker, but Gregg caught him at 100 metres.
Their finish seemed a dead heat, but Mo actually edged Gregg by three thousandths of a second.
Ronald Mulder of the Netherlands knocked Mo out of gold-medal position two pairings later in a time of 34.41 seconds. Mo's time was 34.52.3 ahead of Gregg's 34.52.6.
Gregg will race another 500 on Sunday at the Oval and aims for a medal upgrade.
"Every World Cup, including this one, in Calgary I've won a medal so I'm happy with that," Gregg said. "They've all been bronze so I want to make it a little better than that. I'm always getting beat out by the thousandths in Calgary."
Gregg's bronze was Canada's lone medal on the first day of racing. He lost speed to the South Korean on the turn coming into the home stretch at the Olympic Oval.
"You go into the year not really knowing who is going to go fast," Gregg said. "You see some times, but now everyone is at the World Cup and everyone has peaked, so you get to see where you are in the world a little bit.
"To know that I'm up there with even a less-than-ideal race, it gives me lots of confidence going forward."
Sang-Hwa Lee of South Korea won the women's 500 in 39.91 seconds, which was .11 off her world record. Claudia Pechstein of Germany was the winner of the women's 3,000 metres in three minutes 59.04.
Koen Verweij of the Netherlands took the men's 1,500 metres in one minute 42.78 seconds ahead of runner-up and world-record holder Shani Davis of the U.S. in 1:43.11.
Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was the world champion in the 1,500 two years ago, but broke his leg cross-country skiing midway through last season. Morrison says his leg has fully healed, but he's race rusty and finished 11th in a time of 1:44.42.
"If you would have talked to me after a race like this in 2009, I would probably hardly have talked to you guys and probably would be freaking out throwing things around the change room," Morrison told reporters.
"That doesn't help anything. All I can do is be motivated by what happened and use that to help me focus on what I need to do next. I don't think it's discouraging."
The Essent ISU World Cup continues today with another women's 500 metres, the men's 1,000 metres and the women's 1,500 metres.
Olympic 1,000-metre champion Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., will race that distance Sunday.
The speedskaters can gain Olympic berths for their countries at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, during the first four World Cups of the 2013-14 season.
Canada could take a maximum of 20 skaters to Sochi, but has to earn those spots through World Cup results.
Nesbitt was 13th and Marsha Hudey of Regina 19th in the women's 500. Winnipeg's Brittany Schussler and Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin finished 13th and 16th respectively in the women's 3,000.
-- The Canadian Press