Morrison & Nesbitt win gold

Denny Morrison and Christine Nesbitt win gold at World Cup in the Netherlands
Four individual skaters in top 10

HEERENVEEN, Netherlands
– Denny Morrison won Canada’s first long track medal of the season taking gold in the 1,000-metre race in today’s Essent ISU World Cup at the Thialf Ice Stadium in Heerenveen, Netherlands, and Christine Nesbitt also took a gold medal in the 1,500 metres less than an hour later.

Other Canadian top 10 finishes included, Ivanie Blondin in fifth place of the mass start; Alex Boisvert-Lacroix and Gilmore Junio tied for ninth in the 500 metres; Brittany Schussler was 10th in the 1,500 metres; and Canada’s men’s pursuit team finished fourth. Ten Canadian women and eight men took part in a total of 10 races on the second day of competition. (ISU results website) The World Cup #1 wraps up Sunday with the women's 1,000 metres and team pursuit, and the men's second 500 metres, 1,500 metres and mass start.

In a time of one minute and 9.43 seconds, Morrison edged silver medalist Pekka Koskela of Finland by 0.08 seconds (1:09.51) and Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands by 0.10 seconds (1:09.53) to take first place in the 1,000 metres. Teammate Philippe Riopel, from Lachenaie, Que., stumbled in the last lap and lost valuable time to finish in 19th place in a time of 1:12.25.

“It's always nice to win,” said Morrison, who had not won this race since World Cup #6 in Kolomna, Russia in January 2009. “Today just happened to go well and maybe the ice was a little slower and it worked in my favour.

“The ice just seemed to be a little slow all week, but all you have to do is skate your best race,” added the native of Fort St. John, B.C. “It makes me really proud because there are a lot of guys out there who are really fast. It feels great to stand on top of the podium.”

Nesbitt, winner of three gold and two silver medals and the World Cup points champion in the 1,500 metres in 2011-12, won the first race of the season in a time of one minute and 56.35 seconds. Skating in the second last pair with the silver medallist, the native of London, Ont., beat Marrit Leenstra, of the Netherlands, by seven one thousandths of a second (1:56.42). Leenstra’s teammate, Lotte van Beek, won the bronze medal in a time of 1:57.42. Winnipeggers Brittany Schussler and Cindy Klassen came in 10th (1:59.85) and 16th (2:00.70), respectively.

In women’s 1,500-metre division B action, Regina’s Kali Christ took fourth spot in a time of two minutes and 0.55 seconds, while Calgary’s Kaylin Irvine was 21st (2:05.54).

Blondin pushed especially hard in the last of 15 laps of the mass start to stay amongst the leaders and finished fifth overall. Mariska Huisman of the Netherlands claimed the most points for the gold medal and her teammate, Jorien Ter Mors, took the silver. Germany’s Claudia Pechstein was third. Calgary’s Brianne Tutt placed 13th. The mass start ranking is determined by the accumulated race points gained from three intermediate sprints and the final sprint.

In the first race of the men's division A 500 metres, Alex Boisvert-Lacroix, from Sherbrooke, Que., and Calgary’s Gilmore Junio skated identical times of 35.392 seconds to finish tied for ninth. They will look to move up in the standings during Sunday’s second 500-metre race.

Edmonton’s Jamie Gregg won the division B 500 metres in 35.49 seconds. Skating in his second career World Cup, Laurent Dubreuil, from Lévis, Que., finished in second place (35.58). William Dutton, from Humboldt, Sask., took ninth spot (35.93).

“In the 500 metres (division B) I was hoping to win and had a shot. It wasn’t the best of races as I started running a bit,” said the 20-year-old Dubreuil. “In the 1,000 metres, there were very good skaters in the B group - some guys who came in the top 10 last year. To be able to beat some of them and to be in the mix is really good at this point in the year.”

In his second race of the day, Dubreuil was second in the men’s 1,000 metres division B in a time of one minute and 10.68 seconds. In his first race this weekend, Winnipeg’s Tyler Derraugh was sixth (1:11.56).

In Nesbitt’s first race earlier in the day, she was 0.26 seconds slower in today’s division A 500 metres. She finished in a time of 38.83 seconds falling out of the top 10 into 15th place. Danielle Wotherspoon, of Red Deer, Alta., improved her time from yesterday’s race. She crossed the finish line in 39.21 seconds for 20th place, 0.40 seconds faster than her first 500-metre race on Friday.

The top two skaters from yesterday’s women’s 500 metres returned to their podium positions today. Korea’s Sang-Hwa Lee won gold again in a time of 37.92 seconds and American Heather Richardson took silver (38.13). Germany’s Jenny Wolf was today’s bronze medallist (38.14).

In the women’s division B 500 metres, Calgary’s Anastasia Bucsis moved up from yesterday’s fifth place to third in a time of 39.07 seconds. Shannon Rempel, from Winnipeg, was 10th (39.64).

In the men’s team pursuit, Jordan Belchos, Lucas Makowsky and Denny Morrison skated to fourth place in a time of three minutes and 44.60 seconds. They were in a medal position until the final pair, when the Netherlands took the gold medal in 3:39.76 and Korea earned the bronze in 3:43.57. The Russians won the silver medal (3:42.90).

Check out the “Long track team notes for World Cup #1” for complete list of athletes and updated information.

With today’s medals won by Morrison and Nesbitt, the World Cup Podium Tracker by Intact Insurance stands at $18,000 (5 gold, 9 silver; 4 bronze). Intact Insurance will award $1,000 in cash and prizes to a local speed skating club with each individual medal win. The last two seasons, Intact Insurance awarded more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.

The Essent ISU World Cup #6 (host committee website), featuring the 500- and 1,000-metre sprint distances, will be held at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on Jan. 19 and 20. Ticket information and event details will be available shortly.