Nesbitt On Top Again

Canadian Speed Skaters kicked off 2010-2011 with promising results and a gold medal, on day one of this season’s inaugural World Cup in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. Christine Nesbitt (London, ON), skated to yet another top spot on the podium in the 1000m event, while Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) anchored a fresh-faced men’s team with a 6th place finish in the men’s 1000m.

Picking up where she left off last year, Christine Nesbitt claimed once more the gold medal in the women’s 1000m event. Despite her trail of gold medals, she remains grounded, “I imagine there’s a target on my back,” Nesbitt joked. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I skated in the last pair and I got to watch everyone else. Overall, the times were slower than last year, but I think I had a good time for my skate today, for this point in the season. There always has to be something you’re working on, something to improve.”

Nesbitt’s come a long way since her June 2010 accident, where she was hit by car, and fractured her right elbow. As a result, her preparatory training has been somewhat more difficult, “I’m still limited in terms of weight training. Right now I think its more the tendons and nerves that may be a bit painful. After the crash I couldn’t straighten my arm at all, it was so rigid and swollen.” However, as she proved today “It’s healed and I’m back on the ice!”

The Netherlands’ Margot Boer won silver in 1:16.50, flanked by fellow Dutch skater Irene Wust, who took bronze in 1:16.75.

Also racing for Canada in the women’s 1000m event were Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB), who skated to eighth place in 1:17.31, followed by Shannon Rempel (Winnipeg, MB) in ninth with 1:17.35, rounding out the results, Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) came 14th in 1:17.79.

The women’s 500m event also took place today, Nesbitt came ninth with a time of 38.92. The event was won by Germany’s Jenny Wolf in 38:02; Korea’s Sang-Hwa Lee came second in 38:30, and the Netherlands’ Margot Boer placed third in a time of 38:39.

In Group B, Shannon Rempel skated to second place in 39.45, and has good chances to move up to Group A for next weekend’s World Cup. Anastasia Bucsis (Calgary, AB) crossed the line in 39.99 for seventh place.

Morrison Anchors the Men’s Team

Denny Morrison was in action again in the 1000m event, taking 6th place in a time of 1:09.35; the race was won by American Shani Davis in 1:08.40. The Netherlands earned the remaining podium steps with Stefan Groothuis taking silver in 1:08.51, and Simon Kuipers taking bronze in 1:08.68. Phillippe Riopel (Lachenaie, QC) skated across the line in 1:10.64, good for 16th place, followed by William Dutton (Humboldt, SK) – in his first World Cup season – in 19th place with a time of 1:10.88, Richard MacLennan (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) was 20th with 1:10.90. In Group B, lone Canuck Gilmore Junio (Calgary, AB) was on the ice for his first World Cup season, and came 12th in 1:11.53.

In the men’s 500m event, the best Canadian result was Vincent Labrie (Saint-Romuald, QC) who skated to 12th place in a time 35:56, William Dutton came in 16th in 35.75.

Canadian men were numerous in Group B in the 500m event; Gilmore Junio took 3rd in a time of 35:80 – earning him the chance to move to Group A if he achieves another good race Sunday. Richard MacLennan wasn’t far behind, coming in fifth in 35:84, while Muncef Ouardi (Charlesbourg, QC) took 17th in 36:89.

Saturday, the women will skate the second set of 500m events, as well as the 3000m, and the men will take to the ice for the 1500m. The Heerenveen World Cup concludes Sunday with the second set of men’s 500m races, and the 5000m event, while the women set their sights on the 1500m.