Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rempel's 'Babe' status OK, top form would be much better

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VANCOUVER -- First the good news: British tabloid the Daily Sun has named speedskater Shannon Rempel one of the Top 10 Babes of the 2010 Winter Games."I'll take it," the Winnipeg sprinter said, after a burst of laughter. "It's not offensive or anything. Although I heard it's a tabloid, so hmmmmm... "

Now the not-so-good news: Rempel finished a disappointing 27th in Tuesday's 500 metres at the Richmond Olympic Oval, continuing a perplexing season where she has admittedly struggled to regain the form that helped her claim silver as a member of the Canadian team pursuit squad at the 2006 Games in Turin.

Rempel posted an overall time of 78.82, over 2.7 seconds off the gold-medal pace of Korea's Sang-Hwa Lee's 76.09. Canada's Christine Nesbitt was 10th, with a time of 77.57, while Calgary's Anastasia Bucsis, the youngest member of the Canadian long track speedskating team at 20, finished 34th.

According to the Sun, "The Canadian speedskater has been winning medals and wowing fans for six years. Rempel, 25, excels on the track at 500m and 1000m -- but is even more impressive in front of a camera at close range."

Flattering, yes. But Rempel was more concerned about photo finishes after Tuesday's sprint than photogenics. After all, she wasn't looking to get into the top 10 in a tabloid, but on the track.

"To be honest with you, I'd rather be talking about my races than my looks," Rempel, 25, continued, "but that (Tuesday night's 500) to me was just a warm-up going into the 1,000. The season hasn't gone well just in general. There were times today when the opening was slow but the lap was OK. I'll take that, I guess."

Pressed about the source of her difficulties, Rempel replied, "I don't know. Nothing can really be pinpointed. Just race after race is slow. Technically, I felt fine. I felt tired, but you always feel tired when you're skating, training, racing all the time.

"Maybe I'm not responding to training as well as we'd hoped or maybe it's too much. Maybe it's the type of training I need to do... I don't know."

Asked if she felt a lack of horsepower, or an inability to floor the gas pedal on the oval, Rempel shrugged.

"A little bit," she replied, "but I'd always be surprised (this past season) when I looked up at the clock after the race. Some races hurt more than others, but generally surprised."

Of course, Rempel's strongest event is the women's 1,000, which will also mark the Olympic debut for fellow Winnipegger Brittany Schussler, on Thursday.

"This whole season has been challenging, so it's not really surprising where I'm standing right now," Rempel noted. "But my time in comparison to the winner is a lot better than it's been all (season). I'm a lot closer to a lot of girls who were beating me by a second. I'll just take the good from it and go forward."

Also competing for Canada in the 1,000 are medal hopes Kristina Groves, who captured bronze in the 3,000 metres on Sunday, and Nesbitt.

Rempel, meanwhile, has but 24 hours to try and channel the form that earned her a top-five standing in the world in 1,000 over the previous three years.

"I feel better," she concluded. "It was good to do those races. I'm coming around a little bit more. I mean, I've got nothing to lose out there. The pressure's not on me so I'm just going to skate and do what I can do. I know I'll skate my heart out. That's all I can do."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 17, 2010 C4

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