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Christine Nesbitt finding her stride just in time for Winter Games

January 02, 2014 - 7:09 PM

CALGARY - Everything seems to be coming together for Christine Nesbitt after an uncharacteristically difficult start to the speedskating season.

The Olympic gold medallist from London, Ont., won her third distance at the Canadian Olympic trials on Thursday, taking the 1,500 metres with a time of one minute 55.74 seconds.

"I'm really happy. I haven't raced in two months so I feel strong and fit but it's different when you go to race," said Nesbitt. "You never really know how that's going to translate so I had four great races this week and I'm really excited about it."

The 1,500 will be Nesbitt's third distance in at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia after winning the 500 and 1,000 metres earlier in the competition.

Nesbitt finished ahead of Kali Christ of Regina, who had a time of 1:56.21, and Brianne Tutt of Airdrie, Alta., at 1:59.46.

More accustomed to standing on top of the podium on the World Cup circuit, especially in the 1,000 where she's the defending Olympic champion, Nesbitt has had her struggles this season.

She managed disappointing 10th and 12th places in her marquee distance this year in the season's first two World Cup stops in Calgary and in Salt Lake City, Utah. After that, she decided to sit out the next two stops in Kazakhstan and Germany but feels things are coming back together.

"My plan is never set in stone so it kind of goes with how my body's doing and how I'm communicating with my coach and what the overall goal of the season is," she said. "This season it's the Olympics, obviously, so everything was kind of shuffled around to make sure that I'm on the upswing towards the Olympics, which is exactly how I feel right now."

For Tutt, the third place on Thursday goes with a third-place performance in the 3,000 metres on Saturday on the first day of competition at the Olympic Oval. The results should be enough to get her on the 10-woman and eight-man long track speedskating team in Sochi.

But more than that, it completed a remarkable comeback from a horrific collision in December 2012 that forced the 21-year-old to miss all of last season.

The incident occurred during training when a young skater came around the corner and collided with her. She was hit and flew over the other skater before landing on her left shoulder and head, forcing a recovery from a broken collarbone, ribs, a skull fracture and lost hearing in her left ear.

"I don't think I'll ever be 100 per cent again," said Tutt. "The challenge has been the fun part. Coming back from that crash and just having no expectations this year is why I was able to do so well."

On the men's side, Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., put a crash in the 1,000 metres on Monday behind him by winning the 1,500 with a time of 1:45.00. He was ahead of Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., at 1:45.36, Vincent de Haitre of Ottawa at 1:45.40, and Regina's Lucas Makowsky at 1:45.42.

Morrison, one of the most-decorated members on the long track team, was in danger of not qualifying for Sochi and, skating in the last pair of the day, overcame some nerves to book a spot.

He'll also likely be an important member of the team pursuit that will try to defend their gold medal from Vancouver.

"The 1,500 metres was my last chance to make the team at all and it was the last pair and it was pretty fast times before me," said Morrison. "Maybe four years ago, that would have gotten to me more but I just knew that I had to have a solid race and stay on my feet, cross the line and I just did that."

Canada will have four spots in each of the men's and women's 1,500 in Sochi. Giroux and de Haitre each qualified in their second event, while Makowsky looks to have done just enough to go to his second Olympics.

In Morrison, Giroux, and Makowsky, all three of the Olympic champion men's pursuit team from Vancouver should be back to attempt to defend their Olympic title in Russia.

The team will officially be announced on Jan. 22.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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