Groves: The Best Canadian Result in Berlin

The World Cup Speed Skating season got under way Friday in Berlin. To kick off this season that will be topped off with the Olympic Winter Games in February, Kristina Groves achieved the best result of the day, finishing fifth in the 3000m event and confirming her pre-qualification in the distance for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Groves, a native of Ottawa, led Canadian skaters, while Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB), Clara Hughes (Glen Sutton, QC) and Cindy Klassen (Winnipeg, MB) finished sixth, seventh, and ninth, respectively.

“It’s a solid result, all of the Canadian athletes are in the top ten,” explained contented coach Robert Tremblay. Czech athlete Martina Sablikova skated the distance in 4:00.75, ahead of Japan’s Masako Huzumi by a mere 5.5 seconds, and ahead of Germany’s Stephanie Beckert by 6.42.

Groves’s time in the event was 4:07.98, while fellow Canadians Schussler and

Kristina Groves racing the 3000m in Berlin. Photo: Arno Hoogveld
Hughes came in around the 4:09 mark. “For Cindy Klassen, this return to racing was an excellent result. She started off pretty fast, and was able to maintain her speed, except towards the very end. The last laps were harder, but that is normal. Kristina herself also started a bit fast,” mused Robert Tremblay. He also commented on Klassen’s attitude on the ice, “Cindy is happy just to be here. She exudes contentedness and passion – it’s inspiring for everyone. The atttitude she has right now; it makes you believe anything is possible.”

In second division racing, Nicole Garrido (Edmonton, AB) finished in 11th place.

Morrison Looses Balance

In Men’s racing, Denny Morrison had a humbling 1000m event, as he experienced a small loss of balance in the second corner – he went on to finish sixth. This result is just enough to confirm his own pre-qualification to race the 1000m in Vancouver next February. The athlete from Fort St-John (B.C.) skated the distance in 1:09.74 only 1.21 seconds behind American Shani Davis (1:08.53) – the fastest in Berlin today. “Davis had quite a performance, and I’m not sure Denny could have beaten him today. Yet, if he hadn’t lost balance, he would have surely been on the podium, ” indicated Tremblay.

Sault Saint Marie’s young athlete Richard MacLennan did well in his first ever World Cup race. The 18-year-old finished in 17th place, of which Robert Tremblay remarked “He was able to stay calm, and didn’t panic.”

François-Olivier Roberge, from Saint-Nicolas, took 20th place. “My race went alright, I needed to work on a few technical aspects which I was able to do. However, in the end my time wasn’t all that great, I’m still not sure why.” analyzed Roberge, who had been aiming for a top ten performance.

In Group B, Mykola Makowsky (Regina, SK) and Philippe Riopel (Lachenaie, QC) finished in 18th and 20th places, respectively.

After the first 500m event, Vincent Labrie (Saint-Romuald, QC) is 20th; Muncef Ouardi (Montréal) and Denny Morrison are in 22th and 24th places. The second 500m event will be held Sunday. On the schedule for Saturday will be the women’s 500m and 100m events, while the men take to the ice for the 5000m event.