Nesbitt Completes Flawless Weekend, Jamie Gregg Wins Men’s 500m

Christine Nesbitt (London, ON) remained unbeaten at the 2011 Canadian Single Distance Championships, taking the title in the 500m competition today at the Calgary Olympic Oval. This is a fourth title in as many attempt this weekend for her. Thanks to a very strong second race, Jamie Gregg (Edmonton, AB) took the Canadian Champion title in the men’s 500m.

After coming very close to her personal best in her first race with a time of 38.141, Nesbitt raced the fastest 500m of her life at her second try, crossing the line in 37.862. This is another very encouraging result for the athlete, who was hoping to qualify for both World Sprint and World Allround Championships this weekend. Mission accomplished, and she is now turning her focus on her most ambitious goal of all: actually stepping on the podium at both competitions. And with results like this weekend, anything is possible for the young skater.

Shannon Rempel (Winnipeg, MB) took second place, thanks to her two races of 38.516 and 38.461. With this result, Rempel, who also finished 2nd in the 1000m, should be Canada’s second representative at the World Sprint Championships. The team will be confirmed later this week by Speed Skating Canada. For World Cup racing, Canada has three spots in the women’s 500m. It was a close race for the third spot, which is likely to go to Tamara Oudenaarden (St. Albert, AB) who finished third today (38.579 and 38.537).

On the men side, Matthew McLean (Winnipeg, MB) was first after his first race (35.039), just ahead of Jamie Gregg (35.14), but Gregg came back with a strong second race of 34.807 to beat out McLean for the title. McLean managed to cling to second place with a 35.054 in his second race.

“After my first race, there are a few technical things I wanted to work on for the second,” explained Jamie Gregg afterwards. “I was too relaxed the first time, so I wanted to be more forward, more smooth for the second race.” After skipping out the first few World Cups of the season to focus on school, Gregg is now planning on having a strong showing at the World Sprint Championships. “In Asia, I didn’t know what to expect, after missing out on the first few World Cups, but seeing that I did pretty well there, I’m more confident for the second half of the season for sure!”

After a challenging few years, McLean will finally get to return on the World Cup Circuit later this month. “I’m very happy!”, he smiled at the end of his racing day. “I haven’t been at my best this last little bit, so I just wanted smooth races today. I came really close to my personal best in both races. I’m excited to get back to World Cup racing. It’s been a roller coaster ride for me since 2008, I haven’t had an injury free season since then, so it’s ince to be back,” finished the athlete, whose latest injury came after hitting a sheep during a cycling camp this past summer.

Muncef Ouardi (Montréal, QC) finished third of the 500m ranking today, with times of 35.177 and 35.122. Manitoba’s Tyler Derraugh, a rookie on this year’s Long Track Development Team after switching from Short Track last season, took fourth position (35.224 and 25.329) and Vincent Labrie (St-Romuald, QC) was fifth (35.28 and 35.331).

This puts an end to the 2011 Canadian Single Distance Championships. This week, Canada’s skaters will head to Salt Lake City where they will compete in next weekend’s Continental Championships.