Nesbitt & Morrison Dominate First Day of Long Track National Championships

Christine Nesbitt (London, ON) and Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) dominated the 3000m and 1500m field respectively on the first day of the Canadian Single Distance Championships held at the Calgary Olympic Oval. Nesbitt won the 3000m race with a lead of almost four seconds over teammate Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB). The race was closer in the men’s 1500m, but Morrison edged out Regina’s Lucas Makowsky by 0.21 seconds.

The men were first on the ice to kick off the 2011 national championships. Morrison skated in the second to last pair, but his time of 1:44.80 was good enough to give him first place, ahead of Makowsky, who completed the race in 1:45.01. Mathieu Giroux (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) rounded off the podium with a time of 1:45.65. That is very encouraging for the young man who is focusing on his studies this year and hasn’t spent much time training on Calgary’s 400m oval. He follows an adapted training program that he can conduct from Montreal while pursuing his university degree in pharmacy.

Four men will be selected to represent Canada in 1500m World Cup action this winter. Giroux is not planning on doing so, which should give a chance to Philippe Riopel (Lachenaie, QC) and Justin Warsylewicz (Regina, SK) to join Morrison and Makowsky on the circuit, as they respectively finished fourth (1:46.48) and fifth (1:46.81). The teams heading to World Cups, World Sprint Championships and World Allround Championships will officially be named by Speed Skating Canada later next week.

On the women side, Christine Nesbitt was also racing in the second to last pair, but she flew through the first few laps, posting a time of 4:03.49 that no one was able to get close to. This was a personal best by almost two seconds for Nesbitt, whose previous top time in the distance was 4:05.42. Second place went to Schussler, who completed the race in 4:07.10. Cindy Klassen (Winnipeg, MB) took third place, thanks to her time of 4:08.38. Klassen and Schussler were prequalified for World Cup action in the distance, leaving three more spot open for Canadian women. With today’s result, Nesbitt should be safe, and the other two positions will be confirmed next week.

“I’m really happy with today’s race,” explained Nesbitt, still out of breath after the grueling race. “It was really hard at the end, my first three laps were around 30 second each, which is extremely good, but with two and a half laps left to go, I started to count the corners I had left, I couldn’t wait for it to be over!”

This is great news for Christine Nesbitt, who, after dominating the 1000m and 1500m races on the World Cup Circuit this Fall, has high ambitions for the second half of the season. Not only does she want to remain dominant in those distances, but she also hopes to reach the podium at all three World Championships. With that goal in mind, she has been focusing on improving her 500m, 3000m and 5000m times, and it’s looking quite good. “I hope to peak more at World Allrounds, so I can keep a better time in the last laps,” she continued. “With the Championships being in Calgary, I feel it’s an advantage for me, since it’s a fast ice and I’m used to racing here.” Today was definitely a step in the right direction for Nesbitt.

Tomorrow, athletes will be back on the ice for the women’s 1500m as well as the men’s 1000m and 5000m. Canadian Single Distance action should start at 11:55am, but development athletes will be on the ice as of 9am to race in the Canada Cup #2, running before and after the Canadian Championships. Canada Cup #2 allows skaters to gain raking points in order to potentially qualify for next year’s national and development teams.