Hughes: No one compares to Cindy

Speedskating duo are trying to make their own names known

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RICHMOND, B.C. — Will Christine plus Kristina equal Cindy?

That is the mathematical speedskating, skill-testing question for Canada at the Winter Games.

The remarkable Cindy Klassen took home five medals from the Turin Olympics. Now, the possibility exists that Christine Nesbitt of London and Ottawa’s Kristina Groves, the odd couple of Canadian speedskating, can combine to equal Klassen’s historic numbers.

“We can’t be Cindy,” said Nesbitt, the outspoken, plain talking 1,000 metre specialist. “I don’t know if we can bring back as many medals as Cindy did. I don’t think that’s on our mind. I think Kristina is going to do really well and I think I’m going to do really well and we’ll see what happens.”

What Canada and the world will see are two world-class speedskaters who come to the same events in completely different ways.

Nesbitt is loud, emotional, and freely admits “I hate to lose.” Groves is pensive, introverted, private, thoughtful and respectful when someone defeats her.

“When I lost to Kristina in Calgary in the 1,500, I wasn’t happy,” Nesbitt said on Tuesday. “I had a few words with a few people. That’s what I do. The people who know me can handle me. The next weekend, they reminded me that I didn’t win and how pissed I was. That fueled me to do better.

“That’s what I do.”

To find her way around the track, Groves looks inside herself. She doesn’t size up her opponents.

She doesn’t hate losing the way Nesbitt does. She hates not performing. The race becomes about her. She won’t even begin to talk about how many medals she could win, or how many Nesbitt might win. It’s about the process.

“I always say that predictions are meaningless,” she said. “They’re actually kind of funny to me.

If everyone knew who was going to win before, why bother? That’s what makes the Olympics so exciting. You never know what’s going to happen.

“The thing is, you don’t know (what’s inside of you). You really don’t. How deep can I dig? How far can I go? I want to find that out. That’s the exciting thing about the Olympics. People can find a different gear. They can draw on reserves they didn’t know they had. And I think we’ve seen that in the past.”

They saw it from Klassen in Turin four years ago.

They saw it from Clara Hughes in winning the torturous 5,000 metres.

Now, they don’t know. Nesbitt is favoured to win the 1,000. Groves is among the favourites for the 1,500 but will race in four other events. The two also will be part of the pursuit relay team.

Exactly how many times they find their way to the podium is both a matter of conjecture and directly related to how successful a Games this will be for Canada.

Hockey can produce only two medals, maximum, for Canada. Long track speedskating has a shot at nine. Christine and Kristina can combine for four or five medals themselves if all goes well.

The flag-bearer, Clara Hughes, who isn’t favoured to win anything here, looks at the 24-year-old Nesbitt and sees some of herself in the young skater.

“We’ve had totally different (upbringings) but she’s like me. I really like her fight. I may not be vocal about it the way she is, but I like her tenacity, I like her edge.

For whatever reason, she’s not so forthcoming when it comes to Groves.

“I do know this,” said Hughes. “Kristina is going to be Kristina and Chrstine is going to be Christine. And Cindy, there’s no one that compares to Cindy.”


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