Morrison, Klassen & Nesbitt reach podium at speed skating worlds

Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C ., Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg, and Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., each earned a medal on Saturday at the long track speed skating all around world championships.

Morrison, one of the fastest rising young stars in the sport, notched a second silver in two days finishing second in the men’s 1,500 metres. Klassen, who won five medals at the 2006 Olympics, collected her second bronze placing third in the women’s 3,000. Nesbitt took the bronze in the women’s 1,500 .

In the men’s 1,500, Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands won the gold medal in 1:45.19 with Morrison second in 1:45.70 and Enrico Fabris of Italy third in 1:45.97.

“That was a personal best for me on this track,” said Morrison, 20, also second in the 500 on Friday. “I’m finishing my last lap a lot stronger at this distance than earlier this season. I got away from my pair pretty early as I expected. That can be a disadvantage because you have no one to chase however it also allows you to focus on your own race.”

Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., was eighth, Arne Dankers of Calgary 11th and Justin Warsylewicz of Regina 14th.

After three of four races, Sven Kramer leads the overall standings with 109.440 points, Fabris is second at 109.503 and Wennemars third at 109.818. Morrison, fifth overall last year, is sixth at 110.510. Elm is 11th, Warsylewicz 13th and Dankers 17th.The final race is the 10,000 on Sunday.

The women raced both the 1,500 and 3,000 on Saturday with Ireen Wust of the Netherlands winning both to take a strong overall lead.

In the women’s 3,000, Wust took the gold in 4:00.28 with Anni Friesinger of Germany second in 4:04.00 and Klassen third in 4:05.24.

“I usually start the 3,000 fast and blow up but today I was more conservative off the start and it held up,” said Klassen, also third in Friday’s 500. “I was pretty tired going into the race, the 1,500 had been very hard for me and I felt I had no speed. I really didn’t know what to expect.”

Kristina Goves of Ottawa was seventh, Clara Hughes of Winnipeg 11th and Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., 14th.

Earlier Saturday in the 1,500, Wust also won the gold in 1:54.05 with Friesinger second in 1:55.90 and Nesbitt third in 1:56.08. Klassen was fourth in 1:56.37. Groves was sixth and Hughes 16th.

“This is pretty exciting, the medal is unexpected for me,” said Nesbitt. “I managed to calm my nerves today and was more relaxed through the straightaways. With this performance I’ve regained the confidence I had at the start of the season.”

Overall after three of four races, Wust has a solid lead at 116.502 points, Friesinger is second at 117.679 and Klassen, the defending overall champion, third at 118.343. Nesbitt is fifth at 120.061 and Groves sixth at 120.080. Hughes is 17th. The final race is the 5,000, also on Sunday.

Klassen skipped the fall World Cups to focus on training after a busy off season.

“I’m really happy with where I am at this point in the season,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I’d like to maintain third place overall, I would be very happy with that. I’ve done one 5,000 this season and it went well so I hope to repeat that performance.”

To win the overall crowns at the championships, skaters must post the lowest combined points total in four distances over the three days of races.