Nesbitt, Gregg defend 500-metre Canadian titles

Nesbitt, Gregg defend 500-metre Canadian titles at the single distances championships

– Christine Nesbitt and Jamie Gregg defended their 500-metre titles today at the 2013 Canadian Single Distances Championships (long track). The four-day national competition wrapped up today with the 500 metres.

Nesbitt, of London, Ont., has now won 500-metre gold at the last four Canadian championships (2010-2013). The 27-year-old skated to a cumulative time of 76.34 seconds in her two races, placing first twice in times of 38.23 and 38.11 seconds.

"I'm pretty happy with it (winning the 500 metres). I've been trying to improve everyday upon every race," said Nesbitt. "The first race today was pretty good, but I knew I was missing something. I was really happy that I was able to improve within one hour, skate a faster time and feel more powerful in the second race."

Winnipeg's Shannon Rempel took the silver medal with a 77.27 total. She placed third in the first 500 metres in a time of 38.70 seconds and second in the next race in 38.57. Danielle Wotherspoon, of Red Deer, Alta., was the bronze medallist. She had times of 38.63 (2nd) and 38.78 (3rd) for a total of 77.41. Wotherspoon was also last year's bronze medallist.

Edmonton's Gregg, now a three-time Canadian 500-metre champion (2011 to 2012), had to skate his best 500-metre of the season to defend his title. After placing second in the first race in a time of 34.75 seconds, the 27-year-old had a strong start in the second race to finish in a time of 34.60 seconds and a winning total of 69.35.

"I'm definitely pleased with my time," said Gregg. "It's getting faster. I was having trouble at the start of the year finding my rhythm. In my last race I had a really good opener, it's a PB (personal) opener. Gilmore (Junio) was chasing me last year, and this year now I'm chasing him. We work well together as teammates."

Calgary's Gilmore Junio delivered a personal best time of 34.61 seconds in the first race, and recorded 34.95 in the second 500 metres for a total of 69.56, only 0.21 seconds from the gold medal. Competing in his first season as a senior, Laurent Dubreuil, of Lévis, Que., claimed the bronze medal in a cumulative time of 69.66. The 2012 Canadian and world 500-metre champion had times of 34.78 and 34.88 in his first and second races, respectively.

The Canadian championships will assist in the process to select the teams for the Essent ISU sprint World Cup in Calgary on Saturday, Jan. 19 and Sunday, Jan. 20, the ISU World Sprint Championships held on Jan. 26 and 27 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the three winter World Cups and final. The weekend's competitions will also used to name the team for the World Junior Championships next month in Italy. The teams will be announced early this week.

Athletes were also vying for spots on the team competing at the Continental regional qualifier, featuring Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, in Salt Lake City on Jan. 12 and 13. This qualifier assists in selecting the Canadian team for the World All-Round Championships in Hamar, Norway, on Feb. 15 and 16.