Speed Skating: Gooch on track for greater reward: Winter Olympics bronze medallist chases world title today. Jon Culley reports

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The Independent Online
After the Winter Olympics medal ceremony was over, and Britain's Nicky Gooch had admired the bronze he had just won, he shook hands with Christopher Dean, who had come to offer his and Jayne Torvill's congratulations. They were Britain's only medallists at the Games and, winning the same colour, they were equals.

That was six weeks ago and Gooch may never meet Torvill and Dean again but at least, unlike them, he is taking part in the World Championships. Short-track speed skating's version begins tonight at the Guildford Spectrum and ends on Saturday. He will feel at home there because the Spectrum is where he works.

Before the Olympics, in which he was controversially disqualified from the silver medal place in the 1,000 metres before taking bronze in the 500m, Gooch added the European title to the British crown he already held, confirming his ascendancy over Wilf O'Reilly in the domestic order of merit. But you might never have known. 'When Torvill and Dean won their European, it was all over the papers,' Gooch said. 'I got a couple of lines.'

Preparing for the Olympics, he said, was a struggle: 'I devoted two years to training for it, for which my parents footed most of the bill. I get a grant from the Sports Aid Foundation, which has helped, but I did not have the money for the facilities I needed. Guildford have been very good to me, basically letting me work when I want and train when I want.'

Gooch hopes his Olympic medal might lead to a better grant and sponsorship, although he is not banking on either. 'I'm worried that coverage of short-track will just die out again, until the next Olympics, which is sad when you consider how strong Great Britain is at the sport.

'Wilf O'Reilly has been world champion (in 1991), the relay team has won silver and bronze World Championship medals, we've been European team champions. And yet we are hardly heard about.'

Gooch, whose build-up has been disrupted by flu, is Britain's sole male representative in the individual events after retaining his national title at Hull last month. He expects stiff competition from the South Koreans, Ki-Hoon Kim and Gi Hoon Chae - the Olympic gold medallists - as well as Italy's Mirko Vuillermin and the Canadians Campbell and Marc Gagnon, the defending champion.

Unlike the Olympic competition - two events only, over 500m and 1,000m with medals for each - the World Championships require all competitors to race over four distances - 500m, 1,000m, 1500m and 3,000m - the champion being the racer with the largest aggregrate of points. Gooch has covered both the longer distances in unofficial world record times this season.

WORLD SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS (Guildford Spectrum): Today: Opening ceremony (6.30pm); 1500m and relay heats (7pm). Friday: 500m and relay semi-finals (2pm). Saturday: 1,000m, 3,000m and relay finals (12 noon).

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