December 30, 2009
Nesbitt worthy of awardThe London speed skater should have received the honour, but finished behind winner Aleksandra Wozniak and runner-up Priscilla Lopes-Schliep
By RYAN PYETTE, QMI AGENCY
Is this a case of Nesbitt burned?
The CP yesterday doled out its Bobbie Rosenfeld Award for Canada's best female athlete.
It went to Quebec tennis player Aleksandra Wozniak.
Not to London speed skater Christine Nesbitt.
The long track star didn't even finish second. Runner-up was hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, who won bronze at the Beijing Olympics and silver in the world championships this year.
It's a bad call.
Nesbitt should have bagged the Bobbie and the nation's sports editors and broadcasters who vote should have recognized that.
In a snow-filled nation, she's the hottest thing on ice.
The 24-year-old Banting grad's dominance began last year and went full bloom this season. There's nobody better in the world right over 1,000 metres.
Teammate Kristina Groves has called her "invincible" at the distance.
With the Vancouver Olympics slightly more than a month away and heavy medal hauls being predicted for the host country, Nesbitt is one of Canada's closest things to a sure bet.
She has dominated the World Cup podium this year.
She's an Olympic favourite.
She has pre-qualified for the 1,000- and 1,500-metre races on the Richmond Olympic Oval ice. Two days ago, she won the 500 at the national championships in Calgary.
What has Wozniak won -- other than athlete of the year voting?
Sure, she had a good year by Canadian tennis standards.
Wozniak recovered from a right shoulder tear to go four rounds in the French Open, but was pounded by Serena Williams. She went three rounds in the U.S. Open. She was ranked as high as 21st in the world. Hey, if she went to a Grand Slam final this year, there's no argument.
But she won the CP poll as if she had already been to the Promised Land. She picked up 102 points and 20 first-place votes.
Lopes-Schliep had 68 points, Nesbitt 67 and hockey's Hayley Wickenheiser, who already won this award two years ago -- a non-Olympic year -- had 59.
Nesbitt won the opening World Cup event last month in Berlin. She's topped a competitive field, including German legend Anni Friesinger, all season.
Tuned up for the Olympics?
Nesbitt resides near and trains at the oval in Richmond. This year, she posted the track record in the 1,000 and won at the world single distance championships there.
Maybe name recognition is the issue.
Sure, most of the World Cup circuit is in Europe and the results end up warranting a couple of paragraphs here after each event.
But when those reports come in, Nesbitt is all over the podium. So she shouldn't be a surprise to anyone paying attention just a little bit.
She wasn't that well known when she made her way to Calgary four years ago to skate for Canada. She was part of an Olympic silver medal at Turin in 2006, but teammate Cindy Klassen was the skating star at the time. Now, unquestionably, it's Nesbitt.
Votes like these often come with built-in controversy. No one's raising a fuss that Sidney Crosby won 2009 top male honours.
But there are often results like this that make one wonder if regional politics or even some old-fashioned "spread it around the sport spectrum" play a part in where votes go.
Speed skaters often win this award. Klassen did in 2005-06. Catriona Le May Doan won three times in five years and Susan Auch in 1995.
That's just the last 15 years.
Tennis? Helen Kelesi won it in 1990. Before her, it was Carling Bassett.
But it shouldn't be about equalizing representation. It's supposed to be about who's best in the calendar year.
Sure, tennis and track are more worldly pursuits. But when it comes to comparing sports, simply good has to be weighed against the best of the best.
This year, that was Nesbitt.
It would've been a historic win for the London area, too. Ingersoll-born Betty Taylor, an Olympic hurdler and bronze medallist in 1936, won that year. But that's it.
Was Nesbitt, skating's shining star, burned in this vote?
1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Aleksandra Wozniak 20 16 10 102
Priscilla Lopes-Schliep 12 10 12 68
Christine Nesbitt 15 8 6 67
Hayley Wickenheiser 10 8 13 59
Joannie Rochette 5 15 9 54
Kristina Groves 11 8 4 53
Jennifer Heil 10 6 9 51
Annamay Pierse 6 4 6 32
Emilie Heymans 2 6 9 27
Lauren Woolstencroft 2 7 3 23
See more Christine Nesbitt moments at lfpress.com/gallery