Groves, Morrison win bronze in first day of competition at ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Richmond

(Richmond, BC, March 12, 2009) – Canadian speed skaters Kristina Groves and Denny Morrison put Canada on the podium today by taking a bronze each in the first day of competition at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships held at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

The 3,000-metre ladies and 1,500-metre men’s races marked the first crucial test by the world’s top-ranked speed skaters of the ice where medals will be decided at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in less than a year from now.

Kristina Groves, 32, of Ottawa, ON, ranked third in World Cup rankings for this season in the 3,000m, took bronze after posting a time of four minutes, 6.45 seconds in the distance. Groves surpassed her previous record time at the Oval in Richmond by almost four seconds.

She raced neck-and-neck in a thrilling competition with Martina Sablikova of Czechoslovakia, ranked No. 1 in the World Cup rankings for this season in the 3000m and favoured to win the title. Sablikova eventually triumphed against Groves, taking silver with a time of 4:05.50, while Renate Groenewold of the Netherlands was crowned world champion with a time of 4:05.43.

“I’m really happy with my race today. It was a good solid race. I skated technically really well,” said Groves, who won the 3,000m title at the world single distances in 2008. “I was paired last week in Salt Lake with Martina as well and I think I skated better today.”

Brittany Schussler, 23, of Winnipeg, MB, finished seventh with a time of 4:09.17, while Clara Hughes, 36, also of Winnipeg, was disqualified.

“I’m not happy at all with that race,” Hughes said. “I thought I had enough room to get in front of her (Poland’s Katarzyna Wojcicka). My coach said I went in front of her and she kind of stood up. It was my fault, my responsibility. (But) I definitely haven’t given up; I still have the 5,000m on Saturday.”

The first Canadian medal win at the event came courtesy of Denny Morrison, 23, of Fort St. John, BC, who took bronze in the men’s 1,500m after posting a time of one minute, 47.05 seconds. Morrison, who is ranked seventh in World Cup rankings for this season in the distance, looked relaxed on the ice as he improved on his speed at the Richmond Olympic Oval, beating his track record of 1:47.45 set there earlier this season.

The gold in the 1,500 metres went to American Shani Davis, who is on fire after setting two world records less than a week ago at a World Cup final in Salt Lake City. His winning time today of 1:46.17 is over four seconds slower than the record he set last Friday in the distance – a difference Davis attributed to the slower, “humbling” sea level ice in Richmond. Up-and-coming 19-year-old American speed skater Trevor Marsicano placed second at 1:46.30 in his first outing at the championships.

“I’m pretty happy with the way the race went today since I came into this season with a few difficulties,” said Morrison, who won the same title last year. “I look at these two guys (Davis and Marsicano) – they beat me by almost a full second! I’ve got some work to do. But I know I always skate a better second race in a competition.”

Lucas Makowsky, 21, of Regina, SK, placed 13th with a time of 1:48.55, while teammate Steven Elm, 33, of Red Deer, AB, finished 16th with 1:49.47.

Approximately 160 athletes representing 19 countries are competing at the Oval from March 12 to 15 in this last competition of the 2008–09 ISU season. Canada has a team of 15 athletes in total at the event, which is a chance for them to pre-qualify for the Games.

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


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