Arne Dankers & Christine Nesbitt win second national titles at Canada Post Single Distance Championships & Olympic trials

Arne Dankers of Calgary and Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., earned their second national titles on Monday at the Canada Post Single Distance Championships and Olympic trials in long track speed skating.

In the men’s 5,000 metres, Dankers took the gold in six minutes and 15.68 seconds. He was the 1,500 winner as well last week. It was a big day for Justin Warsylewicz of Regina who smashed his personal best by seven seconds clocking 6:20.04 for second spot while Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was third in 6:24.13.

Warsylewicz put himself in excellent position to gain his first individual spot for the Olympics. The 20-year-old has battled back from Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, an ailment that produces an irregular electrical current in the heart which required two surgeries over a year ago.

‘’I knew I was going to have to skate a big personal best today to get consideration to race the event at the Olympics,’’ said Warsylewicz, who was pre-selected to the Olympic team for the men’s team pursuit. ‘’I was actually aiming for the 6:20 mark so this is a big stepping stone for me. I’ve been getting better in each race this year and I want to continue that trend.’’

With the three Olympic quota spots already filled in the women’s 3,000, the national title was the big prize and Nesbitt won the gold in 4:11.29. Michelle d’Amours of Ste-Foy, Que., was second in 4:11.32. and Justine L’Heureux of Ste-Foy third in 4:13.85.

‘’It was a bit of a surprise for me to win,’’ said Nesbitt, 20, a 1,000 and 1,500 specialist. ‘’I never skated as consistently as today in a 3,000 and that explains the good result. I tend to have trouble relaxing properly for this race but today I was well prepared.’’

Canada can send 20 athletes (10 men and 10 women) in long track speed skating to the Olympic Games and so far 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.

Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes, both of Winnipeg and Kristina Groves of Ottawa were pre-selected in the women’s 3,000.

Competition ends Tuesday with the men’s 10,000 and women’s 5,000 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 set for noon local time.