Arne Dankers & Christine Nesbitt win 1,500 metre races at Canada Post Single Distances Championships & Olympic team trials

Arne Dankers of Calgary skated the sixth fastest time ever in the men’s 1,500-metres on Wednesday while Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., took the women’s race at the Canada Post Single Distances Championships and Olympic team trials in long track speed skating.

Dankers, better known for his exploits in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, clocked a personal best 1:44.40 for the national title and a stranglehold for an individual spot in the event on the Olympic team. Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., was second in 1:45.60 and Justin Warsylewicz of Regina third in 1:45.95.

“I wasn’t the favorite but I felt good and relaxed,” said Dankers who continues a superb season which includes national record performances in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000. “I haven’t raced that many 1,500 metres this year but my endurance has been really good so I had a pretty consistent race which helped me out a lot. My top end hadn’t been that good this year but I had a great start and went even faster on the second lap.”

In the women’s 1,500, Nesbitt was the victor in 1:56.40 with Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg second in 1:57.50 and Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg third in 1:58.63.

“The key for me was to have a good mental approach because physically I knew I could do it,” said Nesbitt, 20. “This was the most nervous I had been all season because it was the first time I had some expectations. But I dealt with it really well. My first 300 metres was the fastest I had ever done and even though I lost some steam at the end I held it together technically.”

Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., had pre-qualified in the men’s 1,500 while Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg and Kristina Groves of Ottawa were pre-qualified for the women’s 1,500. Klassen was named today Canada’s female athlete of the year by the Canadian Press.

Canada can send 20 athletes (10 men and 10 women) in long track speed skating to the Olympic Games and prior to this week’s trials nine of those spots (five men and four women) have been secured by skaters who have pre-qualified based on performances at last year’s world championships and this season’s World Cups.

Competition resumes Saturday with the men’s and women’s 1,000 metres starting at 2 p.m. local time at the Olympic Oval.

The long track team is scheduled to be officially nominated on Wednesday January 4 at a news conference at the Olympic Oval.