Nesbitt pleased with tune-up

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

RICHMOND, B.C.—Christine Nesbitt thought she’d turned in a pretty good first leg of Tuesday’s two-race, women’s 500-metre speed skating event.

Then she ran into Alex Moritz, the Team Canada skate technician, who didn’t necessarily agree.

“He was like, ‘You shouldn’t be too happy with it. You can do better,’ ” Nesbitt said. “I was kind of mad at him. And then it was like, ‘Well, he’s a bit right.’ I focused on a few technical things. It paid off and it was better.”

And with that, one of Canada’s top gold-medal hopes at these Games declared herself ready for Thursday’s 1,000 metres, a distance she’s yet to lose in this season.

Tuesday’s sprint, in which Nesbitt placed 10th, was simply a tune-up for the 24-year-old from London, Ont. A chance to calm those Olympic butterflies doing double back flips in her stomach.

“I got the nerves out,” Nesbitt said. “I wanted to feel the crowd. I heard that it’s really loud and I was kind of scared of it. But it wasn’t scary at all. It was really exciting.”

It was teammate Clara Hughes who told Nesbitt the crowd at the Richmond Oval is so intense you can hear fans yelling your name at the start line.

“So I was really worried, ‘Am I going to be able to focus through that?’ But I was just excited. It was just a roar. I like to kind of acknowledge when they (announce) my name. But I couldn’t even hear.”

Nesbitt is the gold-medal favourite in the 1,000, and a co-favourite with teammate Kristina Groves in Sunday’s 1,500.

She’s not the best starter, though, so finishing almost a second-and-a-half behind gold-medal winner Sang-Hwa Lee in the 500 wasn’t a downer at all.

“I was relatively close to those girls in time, closer than I normally am,” Nesbitt said. “So that’s a good sign.”

Her coach, Marcel Lacroix, sounded satisfied, too.

“She was totally in the now,” Lacroix said. “And she was able to do it when it was important. The result was awesome.”

If Nesbitt and her coach are happy after Thursday’s 1,000, nobody will care what she did in the 500.

“The 500 just kind of gets me ready, gets me in the racing mode,” Nesbitt said. “I’ve been doing that all season . . . and it’s been working well for me.”

Winnipeg’s Shannon Rempel placed 27th and Calgary’s Anastasia Bucsis 34th in the field of 36.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

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