Canadian women have golden touch in team pursuit on final day of ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships

(Richmond, BC, March 15, 2009) – The Canadian women were fluid unity in motion today as they took gold in the ladies’ team pursuit, leaving their nearest competitors almost four seconds behind them, in the final day of competition at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships.

Their win added to Canada’s total medal haul of eight, including two world titles, in the final competition of the 2008–09 ISU season, held at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Last year, Canada won nine medals at the world single distances, including three world titles.

The trio of Kristina Groves, 32, of Ottawa, ON, Christine Nesbitt, 23, of London, ON, and Brittany Schussler, 23, of Winnipeg, MB, finished the six-lap pursuit in two minutes, 58.25 seconds. The Dutch team finished in 3:02.02, while Japan clinched the bronze in a time of 3:04.06.

“Our individual skating styles are very different,” said a triumphant Groves of her pursuit teammates. “Today, we just had a really relaxed, really even race. It’s a nice way to finish the competition for sure. We know we can do that race and we finally did that today.”

“As soon as we crossed the line like that we knew that was the race we’ve been trying to put together for years. It feels awesome,” added Schussler.

The men’s team pursuit team of Lucas Makowsky, 21, of Regina, SK, Denny Morrison, 23, of Fort St. John, BC, and his 25-year-old brother, Jay, finished a disappointing sixth with a time of three minutes, 46.42 seconds after opening strong in the early laps.

The uncatchable Dutch team of Sven Kramer, Wouter Olde Heuvel and Carl Verheijen won gold in a time of 3:41.26 – more than five seconds faster than the Canadians – continuing their dominance of the event at the world single distances championship. Sweden took silver in 3:45.73 and the Americans bronze in 3:46.07.

“Eight to nine, nine to 10 medals was our goal and we’re right on target,” said Brian Rahill, Speed Skating Canada's high performance and Olympic program director, after competition ended. “I think this shows a lot of depth in our program.

“There’s even more in the reserves (and) on the bench that we expect will be back with us next year (in 2010),” he said referencing five-time 2006 Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen, who is recovering from knee surgery, and Jeremy Wotherspoon, who is sidelined because of an injury.

Earlier in the day during the men’s 500m, Jamie Gregg, 23, of Edmonton, AB, finished eighth with a cumulative time of 70.37 seconds. Muncef Ouardi, 22, of Montreal, Que., finished 14th and Vincent Labrie, 26, of Lévis, Que., placed 17th.

“I was really happy with the way I skated . . . (But) I need to get stronger,” said Gregg, who today wrapped up his first full season on the World Cup circuit. “Some of the legs on the guys out there are huge.”

Kang-Seok Lee of Korea won the men’s 500m in a time of 69.73 seconds, while his teammate Kyou-Hyuk Lee finished second in 69.92. Fengtong Yu of China took bronze in 69.97.

Tamara Oudenaarden, 21, of St. Albert, AB, had the fastest Canadian finish in the ladies 500m with a cumulative time of 79.39 seconds placing 18th, followed by Shannon Rempel, 24, of Winnipeg, MB, in 20th and Kim Weger, 28, of Regina, SK, in 22nd.

Defending champion Jenny Wolf of Germany won the ladies 500m in 75.75 seconds. China’s Beixing Wang, who trains in Calgary with coach Kevin Crockett, took silver in 75.87 seconds, followed by Sang-Hwa Lee of Korea in third with 76.39 seconds.

During the four-day competition, the Canadian speed skating team won eight medals – gold in the ladies team pursuit, as well as two medals from Nesbitt (gold in the 1,000m and bronze in the 1,5000m) two from Morrison (silver in the 1,000m and bronze in the 1,500m) two from Groves (bronze in both the 3,000m and 5,000m) and one from Clara Hughes, 36, of Winnipeg, MB, (silver in the 5,000m) – at the Richmond Olympic Oval, where medals will be decided at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games in less than a year’s time.

Canada had a team of 15 athletes in total at the four-day event. Canadian skaters finishing in the top 5 might be named to the long track speed skating Olympic team for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, provided Canada manages to qualify the proper number of competitors for the Games. Country quotas will be determined at World Cup events this coming fall. Team Canada has provisions to pre-select a number of athletes, leaving at least two positions per distance up for grabs at the Canadian Olympic selection event scheduled for December.

Complete results can be found at http://www.speedskatingrichmond2009.com/

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