Nesbitt, Gregg, Schussler, Giroux win opening Selection events

Day one of Intact Insurance 2014 Speed Skating Team Selections in Calgary Dec. 28-Jan. 3.

 

WEBCAST (live) at: http://liveresults.oval.ucalgary.ca/LiveWebcast.aspx

 

Christine Nesbitt and Jamie Gregg won the 500m sprints while Brittany Schussler and Mathieu Giroux captured the distance events on Day 1 of the Intact Insurance 2014 Speed Skating Team Selections on Saturday. Skaters are vying to be nominated by Speed Skating Canada for spots on Canada’s team for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

 

Nesbitt of London, Ont., had two fast times of 38.24 and 38.21 seconds to win the women’s 500m. Marsha Hudey of Regina (1:16.91) and Anastasia Bucsis of Calgary (1:16.93) were second and third respectively. Danielle Wotherspoon-Gregg of Red Deer was fourth.

 

Jamie Gregg of Edmonton won the men’s 500m with a two-race combined time of 69.15. Gilmore Junio of Calgary finished second in a combined race time of 69.31 while William Dutton of Humboldt, Sask., placed third in 69.31. Muncef Ouardi of Quebec was fourth. Current 500m world record holder Jeremy Wotherspoon placed sixth in his attempt to comeback from retirement following the 2010 Olympics, just .06 seconds from a potential Olympic team position. 

 

Gregg finished eighth in the 500m at his first Winter Olympics in 2010 and has two World Cup podiums at that distance this season. “The whole year I’ve been trying to focus on Sochi. I’ve not wanted to take this for granted, but at the same time I want to build through this to Sochi. I’m going to go back and train hard and try to do better, because I’m going to have to do better,” Gregg said. 

 

Junio, 23, has worked hard to achieve his objective of his first Olympic appearance. “It’s four years of work and preparation for 60 seconds. It’s definitely a lot of pressure but it’s what makes Canada good on the world stage. There’s so much pressure at these events that it doesn’t make (international races) seem as bad,” Junio said.

 

Nesbitt hasn’t competed since the Salt Lake City World Cup in mid Nov, opting to concentrate on training. She was pleased with her skating Saturday. “I didn’t know where I stood (going in) and I’m really happy. My openers were really fast, among the fastest I’ve done,” said the 2010 Olympic 1000m champion.

 

Hudey is looking at an Olympic berth in just her first year on the international scene. “It’s pretty surreal. It’s literally a dream come true,” she said.

 

Brittany Schussler, of Winnipeg, captured the 3000m in four minutes, 08.09 seconds. Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa was second in 4:12.79 with Brianne Tutt of Airdrie, Alta., who has overcome a serious on-ice crash from a year ago, third in 4:15.73.

 

Mathieu Giroux, who is from Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., won the men’s 5000m in 6:27.81. Justin Warsylewicz of Regina was second in 6:33.11 and Lucas Makowsky, also of Regina, tied in third  with Jordan Belchos of Toronto in a time of 6:33.29.

 

Sochi would be the third Olympic Games for Schussler, 28. She skated in the 1000m, 1500m and Team Pursuit event in Vancouver in 2010 and was an alternate in Torino, Italy, in 2006.

 

“I can’t wrap my head around it,” she said. “I’ve been so, so nervous. I knew that was my spot and that was my race to win.  I can’t even believe it — I can’t even comprehend — that Sochi is one step closer.”

 

Giroux, 27, was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning men’s pursuit team in Vancouver, where he was also 14th in the 1500m. He overcame some back problems and skate issues this fall to race what he said was his best race of the season. “The last two months I’ve had some back issues that were slowing down my progression,” he said. “We fixed a lot of the back problems in the last month. Also, I had troubles with my skates in the straight away to get proper glide, so we fixed the inside of the boots. That helped also.” 

 

Blondin, 23, moved over from short track four years ago and the move has paid off.  “I don’t think it’s hit me just yet,” she said. “I was so nervous before that race. I was on the line shaking and talking to myself trying to get myself to calm down. I’m so happy.”

 

The selections continue Monday, Dec. 30 with both 1000m races at 6 p.m. 

 

Following the Olympic Qualifying competitions (Essent ISU World Cups), the Canadian long-track Olympic team currently has the ability to send 18 athletes to the Games (10 women, eight men), with the athletes to be nominated by Speed Skating Canada’s Olympic Selection Committee following the Selections and announced publicly on Jan. 22 at Calgary’s Olympic Oval.

 

Canada has currently been allocated two spots in women’s 3000m in Sochi and one spot in men’s 5000m. Canada also has four quota spots in both 500 metre events.

 

SCHEDULE for Intact Insurance 2014 Speed Skating Team Selections:

Monday, Dec. 30

6 p.m.                           Women                1000m
                         Men             1000m

Thursday, Jan. 2

5 p.m.                           Women                1500m

6 p.m.                           Men            1500m

Friday, Jan. 3

3 p.m.                           Women                5000m

4:30 p.m.                      Men            10000m

 

WEBCAST (live) at: http://liveresults.oval.ucalgary.ca/LiveWebcast.aspx

 

OFFICIAL WEBSITE (results): http://liveresults.oval.ucalgary.ca/