Canadian Nesbitt wins gold for second straight day at speedskating World Cup - Metro US

Canadian Nesbitt wins gold for second straight day at speedskating World Cup

BERLIN – Winning gold on consecutive days for the first time in her career was a meaningful accomplishment for Christine Nesbitt, but she’s smart enough to place it in the proper context.

The 24-year-old from London, Ont., zipped to a decisive victory in the 1,500 metres Sunday at the season-opening long-track speedskating World Cup, a performance that followed her win Saturday in the 1,000.

Her time of one minute 55.54 seconds in the 1,500 was nearly a second and a half better than runner up Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, who finished in 1:56.99.

“This is a first,” she said on a conference call afterwards. “It’s really cool, start of the season, it’s a long way to the Olympics still, and just because I won this weekend doesn’t mean I’m going to win gold in Vancouver. But it’s exciting.”

Sablikova’s skate prevented a Canadian sweep of the podium, as Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg was third in 1:57.26 while Kristina Groves of Ottawa was fourth in 1:57.62.

Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., made it a three-medal day for Canada by finishing third in the men’s 1,500.

Schussler won her first individual World Cup silver medal at the distance last year in Berlin.

“Coming into the whole weekend I didn’t know what to expect, you never know where everybody is going to be at, kind of including yourself,” said Schussler, who was sixth in the 3,000 on Friday and fifth in the 1,000 on Saturday. “It’s a good way to start the season.”

Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg, on the comeback trail after surgery on both her knees last year, was ninth in 1:58.63, while Justine L’Heureux of St-Tite, Que., was 24th in 2:04.32.

“I think she can see the progress she’s making,” Brian Rahill, Speed Skating Canada’s director of sport, said of Klassen. “She’s identifying things technically that she needs refine after being away from competition and off skates for a long period of time.”

Nesbitt won the world title in the 1,000 last season and was third in the 1,500. Her strong performances in Berlin reaffirm her emergence as a top contender at the 2010 Olympics.

“She’s on fire right now,” said Schussler.

However, judging where skaters are at is difficult right now, as some of the big names in women’s speedskating like Anni Friesinger of Germany (seventh) and Ireen Wust of the Netherlands (11th) were well off where they usually are.

Different athletes are working at different paces.

“I’ve kind of been worried about it, I’m like ‘Oh, I’m skating real fast right now, what does that mean for later in the season,”‘ admitted Nesbitt. “But I think I’ve worked on my technique so much and I’ve matured a lot over the past year. . . . I’m just a better athlete, I’m at a new level and I can still get better from this level which I think is really cool.”

Another leading hopeful in Vancouver, Morrison is also wary of putting too much stock in the current results. He eyed the poor results of the Dutch team and wondered if they might be playing possum.

That wasn’t the case for him, as he studied video after a sixth-place finish in the 1,000 Friday and found some improvement Sunday.

“Neither the 1,000 or the 1,500 were perfect,” he said. “There’s still so much room for improvement it’s sort of frustrating and exciting at the same time.”

Morrison’s time of 1:45.69 left him just over a second back of American gold medallist Shani Davis in 1:44.47. Havard Bokko of Norway took the silver in 1:45.56.

Lucas Makowsky of Regina was 13th in 1:47.39, Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., was 15th at 1:47.57 while Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., was 21st in 1:48.70.

In the women’s 500, Nesbitt was ninth in 38.57 seconds while Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg was 22nd in 39.67. German Jenny Wolf won the event in 37.52, China’s Wang Beixing was second in 37.94 and Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands was third in 38.27.

American Tucker Fredricks won the men’s 500 in 35.06 followed by South Koreans Lee Kang-Seok and Lee Kyou-Hyuk, who both posted times of 35.10. Muncef Ouardi of Montreal was 21st in 36.23 while Vincent Labrie of Saint-Romuald, Que., didn’t finish.

Podium finishers in Berlin were given chocolate teddy bears about a foot in size, and with four won over the weekend, the Canadians had plenty to snack on for the eight-hour bus ride to Heerenveen, Netherlands, for next weekend’s World Cup event.

A handful of skaters will join the team then, but Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., will not be among them. He’s decided that he will only race in the North American World Cups as he works his way back from a broken arm.

“We have to be a little bit more patient,” said Rahill. “It’s nothing to do with struggling or not struggling or recent struggles. He had always planned on focusing further on his preparation.

“It’s just a matter of him getting used to going full speed again.”

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