Christine Nesbitt doesn’t regret it.
Not one bit.
Amidst the pride and joy of becoming Olympic champion a year ago at the Richmond Oval, the world’s top women’s 1,000-metre long-track speed skater also made it clear she wasn’t satisfied with that winning effort.
The feeling everyone watching was left with was that she thought it could’ve been better. The margin of victory might’ve been larger.
And measured against Jon Montgomery’s unbridled joy, the youthful exuberance of Virtue-Moir and the suddenness of Sidney Crosby’s overtime tally, hers looked like Canada’s reluctant gold.
“I’m glad I didn’t hold it in, because I’ve broken down that race so many times and I still see parts of it where I know I could’ve gone faster,” Nesbitt said this week from her home base in Calgary, the site of this weekend’s world all-round championships.
“I was being honest. I said what I was feeling in that moment.”
Of course, this is all part and parcel of what makes the 25-year-old Londoner so great, so driven, so fast in a sport where desire and self-pressure are high-octane propulsion fuel.
She continues to race against the weight her own expectations.
And during this turbulent post-Vancouver campaign, in which she changed her coach again, suffered injuries after an SUV ran into her during a bike ride and returned to the ice wearing the unmistakable target of Olympic champ, she has been, almost incredibly, perfect.
No one has defeated her at 1,000 metres in seven stops around the globe.
She won the world sprint title in Holland at hallowed Heerenveen, which she called the Montreal Forum of long track.
This has been her fairy-tale year. All that’s left is to complete the spotless season.
“It’s in the back of your mind (to finish unbeaten),” Nesbitt said. “I’m not tired yet, I still feel strong, but at this point, you do start to count down the races till the end of the year.
“I think the biggest thing is after everything that’s gone on and coming into this season without any expectations, I was able to still skate the way I wanted.
“I didn’t know how things would turn out, but I learned this year a lot about myself — that I’m a fighter.”
She feels changed since Olympic gold.
“I’m a more mature skater now,” she said. “There’s a confidence that comes along with Olympic gold. I know what works and what I have to do to be ready. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to be, but I’m less of that gung-ho young skater I was before (in her first Olympic go-round in Turin).”
In the process, she has picked up the mantle of Canada’s long track greats going back to the days of Catriona Le May Doan and Susan Auch.
“I never really got to know Catriona and Susan very well,” she said, “but I still train with Cindy (the legendary Klassen) and being in Calgary, you do get a chance to catch up with some of the athletes from Vancouver. I see Helen Upperton (bobsleigh silver medallist) all the time here.”
When Nesbitt needs to talk or requires a little boost, she has turned to former teammate Clara Hughes, the consummate Olympian.
“Clara’s just such a positive person,” Nesbitt said. “She’s really helped me. She’s always brought a lot of energy to the rink. But I think I’ve only gone out cycling with her once — it’s not really very fun because she crushes me.”
When the skate season draws to a close here, Nesbitt has a return visit to London planned. She will first remain in Calgary to finish up a university course.
“I think it was good for me to skate again this year,” she said. “Obviously, right now, you’re starting to think about that break and some time away, but I’m the kind of person where if I took the year off, I would’ve found something else to do and who knows if I would’ve came back.
“Going through this, it’s kept the fire going for sure.”
She recently won in Moscow. Russia — specifically Sochi 2014 — is her target. She has to find a way to sustain the top of her game for the next three years.
“There’s nothing built in Sochi yet, but knowing the Russians, they’re going to pour the money into it to make it spectacular,” she said. And for Nesbitt, it will be yet another big stage on which to fight that always-inspiring, hard-to-satisfy battle within herself.