Hitch your wagon to a star
Christine Nesbitt captured Canada's first speedskating gold medal of the Vancouver Games on Thursday at the Richmond Oval, winning the women's 1,000 metres.
The London, Ont., native used a ferocious finish to cross in a time of one minute 16.56 seconds, just 2-100ths of a second ahead of her main World Cup rival, Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands.
Laurine van Riessen took bronze in 1:16.72, one of four Dutch skaters in the top eight.
Kristina Groves of Ottawa, who won bronze in the 1,500 earlier in the Games, was fourth. Groves was just 6-100ths off the podium.
Winnipeg natives Shannon Rempel and Brittany Schussler were 21st and 25th, respectively.
The result gives Canada three gold medals, three silvers and one bronze at the Games.
Nesbitt had won all four World Cup races this season at the distance and holds the Richmond Oval record, but it appeared that Gerritsen may have set the standard.
But the 24-year-old Canadian poured it on in the penultimate pairing with Monique Angermuller of Germany.
"Today really I didn't have a great race, physically, I could feel I wasn't skating well. But I just kept going until the end and it paid off," Nesbitt told CTV.
It was the kind of attitude she displayed all season. In a Dec. 17 media conference call, she told reporters that despite the four wins she considered herself an underdog at the Games because many other skaters had more Olympic experience.
Nesbitt then waited it out as Groves duelled in the final pairing with Margot Boer of the Netherlands, who finished sixth.
Groves wasn't overly disappointed, despite missing out on a chance for her second medal.
"That's my best result in the 1,000 this year, it's my strongest event for sure, so I'm actually pretty happy with how I skated," she said. "I saw the four [fourth place] in brackets right away and was kind of like, darn. I didn't realize until I saw the time that it was as close as it was. I did the best I could and for me in the 1,000, that was a great result."
Gerritsen was able to bounce back from the 500 earlier in the week, after falling.
Veteran Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S. had a gutsy skate, placing seventh.
Rodriguez, who won two bronze at the Salt Lake Games, held first for a time.
The American was paired with four-time Olympic medallist Ani Friesinger-Postma of Germany.
Friesinger-Postma slipped in a turn early in the race, but made up ground at the end, ultimately landing in 14th.
Van Riessen took over the lead from Rodriguez. It was clearly a case of peaking at the right time for the Dutch skater, who has earned progressively better results over the four World Cup races, finishing fourth in the last one before the Olympics.
Schussler, who started the World Cup season with a fourth in the first race, has struggled in recent races. She got off to a slow start against Elli Ochowicz of the United States and didn't have the same kind of finishing kick as usual.
One of the best pairings on paper was of Nao Kodaira of Japan and Beixing Wang of China, third and fourth, respectively, in the 1,000 World Cup standings.
Kodaira won easily over Wang, who captured bronze in the 500 earlier this week. Kodaira would settle for fifth.
Canada's Cindy Klassen holds the world record of 1:13.11 at the distance, set at the Calgary Oval in 2006.
The women's record in the Olympics is 1:13.83, set on the fast Salt Lake City track in 2002 by Christine Witty of the United States.