Nesbitt turns skaters' heads

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

It's been a wild start to Christine Nesbitt's long-track speed-skating season.

The London native has been the big story for Canada.

She had never been to Berlin before the World Cup circuit event and wound up winning two medals, her third and fourth of the World Cup.

She's now in Moscow -- the first time she's been there as well.

"I hope things go as well," Nesbitt said from Moscow yesterday. "There's so much to learn still. We've only had two World Cups and there's a lot to go. I'm one of the younger skaters on the team. I haven't even skated in so many places.

"Last week, we skated in Berlin and I hadn't even been there. Most people had. Now in Moscow, I've never been here. Even just being in new places make a difference. It's part of the learning process."

Nesbitt seems to be learning quickly. The 21-year-old is surprising most people with her performance.

Over the past few seasons, she's been part of an outstanding women's long-track speedskating team that had a tremendous Olympic Games in Turin. Gone from that team are Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes. Nesbitt has already teamed with Kristina Groves and Shannon Rempel to win a medal in team pursuit and Nesbitt has three individual medals.

Nesbitt said despite the results, she feels she still could have skated better in her events.

"There's some things I didn't do well, but I will know better the next time." she said.

But she does admit to being surprised she's visited the podium as often as she has.

"It's started off well," she said. "I didn't know that I would have this good of results right away at the World Cup, but I knew that I was a lot stronger than I was last year and had a lot more potential to race better and be in contending spots. But I didn't expect to be medalling every race."

Nesbitt credited a convergence of things for her quick start.

"It helps when you have a really good team to train with. You go out there every day and skate with great skaters," Nesbitt said. " And it's been another year of training. Last year was my first full year of competing on the international World Cup circuit and I think I got a lot of experience from that. So now I am able to use what I learned last year so I can race more consistently and I know what to expect."

And Nesbitt couldn't have learned about what it takes to win from anyone better than Klassen who dominated the Olympics.

"Watching Cindy, Clara and Kristina race so well has definitely helped me," she said.

"I always knew I raced better when I was more relaxed. In the Olympics, I was pressuring myself to race well. My first race, the 1,000 metres, I wanted to be relaxed. I forced myself and as a result I got tense. I learned from that. I learned from the Olympic experience. (The Olympics) are so much more intense that it's easier to race now."

Moscow, Berlin and the Netherlands are about as far as one can get from the London arenas in which Nesbitt used to train.

"I was thinking about that the other day, about how different all this is," Nesbitt said. "I look back and I think I basically skated a couple of times a week in a rink, I ran cross-country and track and field. It was good for training, but it didn't do much for my technique. It's kind of cool I've come this far."

Nesbitt is moving in the upper echelons of speed skating. There's a lot of travelling, long days, short nights and hard training sessions. She said the schedule can be "ridiculous."

But she's getting used to it and admits to having a lot to learn.

Competing against veteran skaters such as the legendary Anni Friesinger of Germany will help her on the ice.

"I was paired with (the Netherlands' Olympic silver medallist Ireen) Wust. I had to really try and focus on myself," Nesbitt said. "I didn't skate well. I was concentrating on her too much instead of myself.

"That's sort of the next step I'm at. I have to learn how to race when I'm paired with someone who is at the same level or a higher level than me."

But Nesbitt is only 21 and a long way from the age when speedskaters reach their prime.

"The more you race the more experience you get, the more consistent I'm going to be and the better I'll be able to perform under pressure," Nesbitt said. "It's going to help me with the next Olympics."


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