Nesbitt Skates Closer to World Sprint Podium in 2011

Day one started wonderfully at the World Sprint Long Track Speed Skating Championships, in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, with Christine Nesbitt (London, ON) standing in first place overall after round one. Grabbing top honours in the 1000m event and skating well in the 500m, Nesbitt is poised to achieve her goal of a podium finish in this weekend’s competition.

Nesbitt skated a solid 500m race, clocking 38:57 for sixth place. Germany’s Jenny Wolf was fastest across the line in 38:21, followed by a second-place tie between Japan’s Nao Kodaira and the Netherlands’ Margot Boer both with 38:28.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games 1000m gold medallist Nesbitt once again displayed her prowess in the 1000m race, scorching the competition by almost a full second and a half, with her time of 1:15.01; the Netherlands’ rounded out the results, courtesy Ireen Wust with 1:16.49, and Annette Gerritsen with 1:16.89.

National Long Track Team Coach Mark Wild commented about Nesbitt’s performances, “She skated really well today in her 1000m, and her 500m was one of her best races in that distance, when you consider the women she’s skating with,” he analyzed. “She came in believing in herself and she knew that if she skated to her potential she could challenge for a podium spot in the overall sprint title. The Dutch press are very interested in Christine, they respect her approach to skating: she’s an all-round skater, really good at all the distances – from the 500m to the 5000m,” he concluded.

Shannon Rempel (Winnipeg, MB) was the only other Canadian woman on the Heerenveen oval today, in the 500m she skated to 14th in 39:12; in the 1000m Rempel skated to 12th in 1:18.20. “Shannon’s looking to improve her skating, she’s rebuilding; the performances she had today were satisfying, but she’s looking to get better every time she’s on the ice,” affirmed Wild.

In the overall classification, Christine Nesbitt is atop the rankings; Jenny Wolf is second, while Annette Gerritsen is third; Shannon Rempel is in 12th.

Canadian Men Making Inroads

In Men’s skating, Jamie Gregg (Edmonton, AB) posted the fastest Canadian time of 35:52 in the 500m, good for 11th place. Korea snapped up the two fastest times, thanks to Kyou-Hyuk Lee’s 34.92 and Tae-Bum Mo’s 35.19; the Netherlands’ Stefan Groothuis followed for third in 35.21.

“Jamie skated well today, after the first race (the 500m) he reassessed his performance and skated a much better 1000m technically. His goal this weekend is a top five to top 8 performance; being currently seventh overall, he’s close to that goal – and he has two races tomorrow to improve his ranking, so he’s looking forward to skating Sunday,” concluded Wild.

More adapted to middle distances, Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) posted a time of 35.97 in the 500m event – good for 25th place.

Roles were reversed in the 1000m event, where Denny Morrison skated across the line in 1:09.88 for fifth place, while Gregg came in sixth place in a time of 1:10.05. The Netherlands’ Stefan Groothuis was the fastest man in the distance - coming in at 1:08.97; American Shani Davis crossed the line in 1:09.14, Tae-Bum Mo earned third place honours with 1:09.38.

Speaking about Morrison’s performance, National Long Track Coach Mark Wild was positive, “Denny had a really good 1000m – probably one of the best results in the season so far, in one of the most important races of the year. He still feels there are improvements to be made, but in light of where we are in the season, he’s close to his season-end goal of a podium in the 1000m event.”

After Round One, Jamie Gregg sits in seventh place overall, while Morrison is eleventh. The top spot is currently held by the Netherlands’ Stefan Groothuis, after which is Korea’s Kyou-Huk Lee, followed by American Shani Davis.

“Consistency is important due to the cumulative nature of the event,” Wild explained, “you’re skating the same distances the next day so there’s opportunity to review, analyze, and make changes. Our skaters are looking forward to Sunday’s events. Plus, it’s an exciting venue – 10 000 Dutch fans cheering for everyone; it’s really exciting for the athletes, and it’s a thrilling environment to compete in!”

The overall winners of the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships will be crowded tomorrow, Sunday, after Round two, which consists of men’s and women’s 500m and 1000m events.