Nesbitt happier day after golden win

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency


Christine Nesbitt's gold medal has sunk in a bit more ... and now she is looking forward to chasing more precious metals. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

RICHMOND, B.C. — Canada’s unhappy golden girl?

That seems to be the prevailing view of Christine Nesbitt after her half-hearted reaction to winning Thursday’s 1,000-metre speed skating event.

Put the pictures of Nesbitt next to those of short tracker Marianne St-Gelais, jumping up and down one moment, in tears the next, and you might think Nesbitt missed out on the podium altogether.

The only window into the 24-year-old’s heart the day after — the skaters aren’t talking to the media between races — was a line from her Twitter feed.

“Wow, what a day yesterday!” tweeted the champ Friday. “Thanks for all the congratulations!!! I still can’t believe it!”

Maybe London’s newest hero is warming up to this gold-medal thing, after all.

Canadians should actually consider it great news that Nesbitt was more angry than ecstatic following the 1,000.

This is a skating perfectionist who wasn’t nearly perfect. So instead of doing the day-after media tour, going from press conference to press conference, as is the custom for Canadian medalists, Nesbitt was holed up somewhere, no doubt grinding every possible angle for Sunday’s 1,500.

Teammates saw it in the minutes following her golden skate: This is one determined blade runner.

“Right away she said, ‘But it was too close. It was too close,’ ” Brittany Schussler said. “So look out for her on Sunday.”

Nesbitt’s opening salvo at these Games reminds me a little of Cindy Klassen’s first race in Turin.

Skating the 3,000, Canada’s eventual Queen of the Games had a shaky start, her nerves causing her legs to wobble in the final turn. Klassen was so good, so strong, she still won bronze that day, at the same time getting a bad race out of her system.

We all know how she did the rest of the way.

Nesbitt isn’t the multi-distance star Klassen was, but the chances of her hitting one of the top two podium spots in the 1,500 went up the moment the crossed the line with that scowl Thursday.

“That’s one of my strengths. When I’m not happy with a race, I can use that to skate a really good race next time,” Nesbitt said at the time.

It used to be she’d just get angry.

“I’ve seen her make great strides in terms of maturing, when it comes to racing, how to race and her reaction to racing,” teammate Kristina Groves said. “She’s a little bit more calm it seems, these days, than she has been in the past.”

On the track, though, forget calm. Nesbitt is an animal.

“If you look at the pictures, she’s always got these eyes,” her coach, Marcel Lacroix, said. “Fierce, just like a bull.”

And in the 1,000, when she fell behind skating partner Monique Angermuller of Germany, she was a hungry animal tracking down a meal.

“She had a piece of meat in front of her, basically,” is how Lacroix put it. “Something to chomp on. A target. That helped her.”

Usually, Nesbitt doesn’t need help. She’d been blowing away her competition this season, four-for-four (even ital-she’d-ital have to agree that’s perfect) on the World Cup circuit.

Thursday, the enormity of the moment, her first chance at Olympic gold, got to her, just a bit.

And she slipped.

“She probably had a lot of pressure on her, having won all four World Cups this year by a huge margin,” Groves acknowledged. “To squeak out the win under that kind of pressure is a great testament to what kind of athlete she is.”

When Nesbitt finished her race, she thought it might be worth a bronze.

“I didn’t come here to win bronze,” she said.

There’s something else Nesbitt didn’t come here to do.

Win just one medal.

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