January 23, 2011
Nesbitt sprints to world title
By Dave Pollard, QMI Agency
A new year has brought a new status for Canadian speed skater Christine Nesbitt.
How's world sprint champion sound?
Coming off a dream year that saw her win Olympic gold in Vancouver, Nesbitt skated to her first sprint world championship Sunday in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Nesbitt, a 25-year-old from London, Ont., won the 1,000m event and finished third in the 500m to sew up the title. In the first day of competition Saturday, Nesbitt won the initial 1,000m race and was sixth in the opening 500m.
"Winning here in Heerenveen is really special to me, there's such a history of speed skating here," Nesbitt said. "They have one of the oldest ovals, the crowds are great, and there are lot of unique traditions. When the winners are crowned, they're taken around the oval in a Friessian horse-drawn sleigh, there's a band playing, and everyone stays to watch and cheer. It would sort of be like winning the Stanley Cup in Montreal I think."
Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands was second overall while teammate Margot Boer was third. Neither Dutch skater won any of the four races but still managed to finish just under two seconds behind Nesbitt for the overall title.
Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg was 13th overall, four seconds behind Nesbitt.
On the men's side, Jamie Gregg of Edmonton was the top Canadian, finishing sixth, while Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was seventh. Kyou-Hyuk Lee of Korea won the overall title for the fourth time after finishing first in both 500m races.
After winning the 1,000m gold at the Vancouver Olympics, Nesbitt was involved in an off-season accident -- she was hit by a vehicle while riding her bicycle home from a workout in Calgary -- that left her with a broken elbow and damaged knee.
The injuries didn't slow Nesbitt down for long, though.
She qualified for the World Cup season in the fall then dominated at 1,000m, going unbeaten in three stops on the circuit. Nesbitt won eight times overall -- four 1,000m races, three 1,500m races and one pursuit -- in the first half of the 2010-11 Wold Cup season.
At the Thialf oval in Heerenveen, Nesbitt was favoured to win the 1,000m races but clinched her first spring championship with surprisingly strong results in the 500. A third-place finish behind Jenny Wolf of Germany and Boer in the 500 Sunday effectively gave her the title before she skated in the 1,000, given her strength at that distance.
"I never thought my 500m races would be good enough to compete with these girls," Nesbitt said.
The results, though, show how well-rounded a skater Nesbitt has become.
"Christine stayed very focused over the weekend, she was able to skate four great races," Canadian long-track coach Mark Wild said. "She always knew she had the potential to do what she did today, and I think it really puts her on the map in terms of being a full sprint athlete."