Canada’s Christine Nesbitt earns first career World Cup victory

KEARNS, Utah – Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., earned her first career victory on the long track speed skating World Cup circuit on Saturday leading Canada to a 1-2 finish in the women’s 1,500-metres. Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., added a bronze in the men’s 1,000.

In the women’s 1,500, Nesbitt clocked a personal best 1:52.75 for the victory with Kristina Groves of Ottawa second at 1:54.25 and Chiara Simionato of Italy third at 1:54.65. World record holder Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg was fourth in 1:54.91. Shannon Rempel and Brittany Schussler, both of Winnipeg, were ninth and 10th.

Christine Nesbitt, Photo: Arno Hoogveld
‘’Only in the past three weeks has my skating started to really pick up,’’ said Nesbitt, 22, a bronze medallist in the 1,000 at last year’s worlds. ‘’So I wasn’t going in with a lot of confidence and didn’t think I could win a gold this soon.’’

Nesbitt said her strong start was the key in putting her on the top podium step.

‘’Last year I was usually beaten in the first 300 metres of the race so today my focus was to start pretty fast. It was a challenge because if I started too fast I wasn’t sure if I would slow down much sooner in my race.’’

Groves bounced back from a disqualification in Friday’s 1,000 for two false starts.

‘’I was kind of worried it was going to happen again,’’ said Groves. ‘’So I just wanted to make sure I got off clean. I think it made me more nervous and that helped. With all that worry I was pretty surprised when I saw the time.’’

In the men’s 1,000, Pekka Koskela of Finland broke the world record clocking 1:07.00. That eclipsed the previous standard of 1:07.03 set here in 2005 by Shani Davis of the U.S. Davis went 1:07.18 for the silver and Wotherspoon took bronze in a personal best 1:07.34.

‘’I really didn’t know what to expect in the 1,000 today,’’ said Wotherspoon, fresh from a world record performance in the 500 on Friday. ‘’But it’s good to put down two consecutive solid races. I improved my personal best by about four-tenths and I basically gained that time in the 200-500-metre area.’’

Jeff Kitura of Langley, B.C., was 19th, François Olivier-Roberge of St-Nicolas, Que., 24th while Canadian record holder Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was disqualified for an illegal crossover. Jamie Gregg of Edmonton was fourth in the B Group race.

In the men’s 5,000, Enrico Fabris of Italy broke the world record clocking 6:07.40. Arne Dankers of Calgary was fifth in 6:17.71, Justin Warsylewicz of Regina 15th, Steven Elm of Red Deer 22nd and Aaron Sadlier of Norwood, Ont., 28th.

Jenny Wolf won the women’s 500 in 37.22. Rempel was 18th and Kim Weger of Regina 22nd. Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer was sixth in the B group race.

Competition ends Sunday.