Ottawa’s Kristina Groves wins women’s overall title at world championship qualifier

Kristina Groves of Ottawa won the women’s overall title and Canada gained its maximum number of berths for next month’s world all around championships in long track speed skating on Sunday at the North American qualifier.

Groves, a double medallist at the Olympics last year earned a victory in the 1,500 metres and third spot in the 5,000 to finish finish first overall over four races this weekend. Clara Hughes, the 5,000 winner, was second and Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., third.

Groves, Hughes, Nesbitt and reigning world all round champion Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg, who was pre-qualified and didn’t compete this weekend, will skate for Canada at the 2007 all around worlds February 9-11 in Heerenveen, the Netherlands.

“Clara’s performance in the 5,000 was very impressive on a very slow ice surface,” said Canadian national team coach Marcel Lacroix of Calgary. “Kristina Groves was solid in all her races and Christine Nesbitt rebounded from a tough week at nationals and showed the form she had at the start of the season.”

In men’s competition, Chad Hedrick took the overall crown but after that it was all Canada. Arne Dankers, who beat Hedrick in the 5,000 on Saturday, was second overall, Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., the 1,500 winner Sunday, third and Justin Warsylewicz of Regina fourth.

Dankers, Elm, Warsylewicz and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., who was pre-qualified, are Canada’s entries for the worlds.

”The guys showed a lot depth this weekend,” said Lacroix. “To have Jay Morrison (of Fort St. John) win the 500 and place third in the 1,500 and not make the team that shows how much talent there is. And Arne continued what he started at the Canadian championships two weeks ago.”

Canada was allowed to send a maximum four skaters for the men and women to the worlds.

In the women’s 5,000, Hughes showed why she is the Olympic champ in the event clocking just over seven minutes. Catherine Raney of the U.S., was second, Groves third and Nesbitt fourth. Groves won the 1,500 with Nesbitt second and Hughes third.

In the men’s 1,500 Elm took top spot with Dankers second and Jay Morrison third. In the 10,000, Hedrick prevailed with Dankers second and Warsylewicz third and Elm fourth.